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Public Library 

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A Personal History 














,./ TfUMjt 


- - ~r-* ^*> 

Facsimile o a letter from the 
former Vice President to the author, Bascom N. Timmons 













WANT TO 173 





TION" 26! 




Shortstop with a Future 

JOHN NANCE GARNER, 3rd, Confederate cavalryman, rode 
home to Texas in the early summer of 1865. In 1862 he had gone 
off gaily to join General Joe Wheeler's cavalry; he had trans- 
ferred to Magruder's forces to help drive the federal blockading 
forces out of Galveston Harbor. Back under Wheeler's command, war's 
end had found him with an isolated unit of Fighting Joe's disin- 
tegrating army near the Louisiana- Alabama state line. 

A hard, lean, unlettered six-footer, lacking a half-year of being 
twenty-one young Garner headed home with nothing to his name but 
the horse he rode in battle, his side arms, the uniform and the heart- 
sickness of deep defeat. In this he was no different from 200,000 other 
Confederates straggling to their homes at the same time, and in some 
ways he was more fortunate than most of them. Texas, the most western 
of the Confederate states, had been spared the ravages of the eastern 
South. Grant had cut a swath of destruction on his way to Vicksburg 
and later to Richmond. Sherman had been even more destructive in 
his famous March to the Sea through Georgia. But Texas had not 
suffered a major invasion, and Garner's home country the Red River 
section had never felt the Yankee tread. The black soil there was rich 
and inviting to returning veterans. And for Garner there was another 
inducement to return home. He had a girl, Sarah Guest, waiting for 
him at Blossom Prairie. 

This was the second time young Garner had made the westward 
trip to Texas. He did not remember much of the first journey. In 
1851, as a six-year-old, he, with two brothers and three sisters, had come 
700 miles from Rutherford County, Tennessee, to Blossom Prairie in a 

covered wagon. His mother, widow of John Nance Garner, 2nd, was 
the driver, the cook, nurse and the housekeeper of that traditionally 
American trek. 

Rebecca Walpole Garner had been born to better things than the 
frontier life. A direct descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, of England, 
Prime Minister and great parliamentary leader of the early 1700*5, 
she had been gently raised in a cultured, well-off family, the Walpoles of 
Tennessee. She married into a family as good as her own. The 
Garners and the Nances both came into Tennessee from Virginia. Her 
husband was Scotch in the male line and Welsh in the other. Both lines 
went back into colonial times. The Garners and the Nances had done 
the things that good Americans did in those times. They had fought for 
the King against the French and for George Washington against the 
King. They had found the way to education and business success. They 
had moved west on the outer rim of advancing civilization. They were 
not, however, persons without roots. Rebecca's husband was the second 
John Nance Garner to be born in Tennessee and her son was the third. 

The Tennessee background is an important fact in Garner family 
history. Andrew Jackson had lived his adult life in this state, went 
from there to the White House and came home to die there at the 
Hermitage. Jackson's friend and hero-worshiper, Sam Houston; had 
left the Tennessee governorship, led the fight to free Texas, defeated the 
Mexican President, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, on the battlefield 
at San Jacinto and become the first President of the Lone Star Republic. 

On the way to Texas, Sam Houston in 1832 had proceeded through 
the Territory of Arkansas over the old road from the Arkansas River 
to Fort Towson, thence over Choctaw Trail, crossing Red River at 
Jonesboro. Davy Crockett's entry into Texas in 1835, with a small party 
of men, was through the Jonesboro gateway, and he spent his first Texas 
night in Red River County. Many Tennesseans followed. Among them 
were some of the Walpoles whose family fortune vanished in the finan- 
cial panic of 1837. 

Houston was President of the border Republic when the Walpoles 
arrived and settled in Red River County. The rich-soiled area laid 
claim to being the mother county of Texas for in it Stephen F. Austin, 
father of Texas, had stopped for a while with his first group of colonists 
in 1821. The Walpoles had done well in the new country. With her 

husband dead and with little recovery since the financial panic of '37 
had brought disaster to them, Rebecca Walpole decided to push west, 
to make a new start with her little brood among her own people. 

Described as a strikingly handsome woman, used to the best that 
Tennessee offered, Rebecca Garner demonstrated in her new home 
bordering on Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) that she could do a 
man's and a woman's work. It is well she could. Many o the restless 
men o that area had come back from the Mexican War and had gone off 
again with the gold rush to California. Rebecca Garner needed not only 
her own work and good management, but the work of all her children 
in order to make a go of It. 

^ Thus, her son, the Confederate cavalryman, had missed the educa- 
tion and rooted life that all his American ancestors had known. The 
boy's chance of an education would have been negligible at all events. 
But he also had the handicap of bad eyes. The incentive to get into the 
Confederate Army was so strong that he went 150 miles away to an 
eye doctor for treatment. The doctor did so good a job that although 
he lived to be seventy-five he never again wore glasses. He came home 
from the war to a state which had been under six flags three in his 
lifetime and now it was under none. This last condition as it turned 
out, was to be worst of all. Proud Texas would spend the next five 
years as a conquered country under Phil Sheridan's army of occupa- 
tion and what was still more humiliatingunder carpetbag govern- 

But the tall cavalryman was not the kind to sit around and rail at his 
fate. He broke the rich, black,' waxy earth and planted a crop. He built 
himself a mud-chinked log cabin and married Sarah Guest Their 
first child was born there on November 22, 1868. It was a boy-child and 
they called him for his father, John Nance Garner, fourth of that 

Grant had been elected President two weeks before. The Vice-Presi- 
dential running mate of the old soldier had been Schuyler Colfax of 
Indiana with whom the infant bom in the Texas log cabin was to 
share the distinction of being the only men to serve as both Speaker of 
the national House of Representatives and Vice-President of the United 

Grant's election raised new hope in Texas. Perhaps he could break the 


deadlock between Congress and the President, precipitated by Triad 
Stevens' desire to heap punishment on the South, and end the military 
rule in Texas. But any hope that he could do that was short lived. The 
great General had no aptitude for civilian government. By spring, con- 
ditions were worse than ever. Commissioners elected by the Texas 
Reconstruction Convention on March 11, 1869, drafted a memorial to 
Congress to represent conditions in the unhappy land. The memorial 
denied "the pretense that a marked decrease of lawlessness had become 
manifest since General Grant's election to the Presidency." 

"In fact," they wrote, "the assassinations in Texas since the election 
of General Grant have averaged two persons daily." 

Financial conditions were so serious that Elisha M. Pease, governor 
by military appointment, proposed the sale of the part of the state lying 
west of the Pecos River to the federal government in order to help ease 
the impoverished condition of the rest of the state. The proposal was 
not acted on and desperate conditions were to continue. 

While the quarreling, the sporadic violence and the general agony of 
political reconstruction was going on, ex-Cavalryman Garner was recon- 
structing his own life and proving what a correspondent was to marvel 
at, in the Manchester, England, Guardian: "In Texas no capital is 
needed except the sweat of a man's brow. Labor alone can make a 
man rich." Garner's forebears had given him neither money nor educa- 
tion, but he inherited their gifts for energy and success. He was a hard 
worker in his own fields, a good neighbor and a companionable fellow. 
These things come naturally to a young husband who has been raised 
in a hard-up household with an extremely capable mother and five other 
children. Two years after the birth of his first child he was proving 
that a man who did not mind hard work and who practices thrift could 
make a living for his family even under the tragic conditions of recon- 
struction. He had hired men to help him on the farm when they could 
be obtained in the short farm-labor market. 

The mart where he sold his cotton was the brightest commercial 
spot on a dark business map of Texas. Jefferson was seventy-three miles 
from the Garner farm. It was a port on Big Cyprus Bayou, then 
navigable to a connection with Red River. All Red River County 
farmers took their cotton to the prosperous city of Jefferson for ship- 
ment to New Orleans and came back with loads of provender. Garner 


was putting money in the bank. Texas came back into the union o 
thirty-seven states in 1870 and that same year Garner started building a 
real home for his family. 

It was the most pretentious in that part of Texas. Picking a site oil 
the hill crest two miles west of the log cabin, he built both for beauty 
and comfort. More than a little ancestor conscious, he preferred the 
colonial type of architecture. He engaged the best-obtainable crafts- 
men to help him at the building. He bought choice lumber., hauled in by 
ox wagon from Jefferson. 

As the new house went up, it became the good-natured envy of the 
countryside. The foundation was of hewn timber. Studding, inter- 
spersed with oak logs, was pegged into place and locked with braces set 
in notches cut into timber. An ornate entrance door, a carved winding 
stairway leading to the second floor and a wainscotted parlor, two tall 
red chimneys at either end of the house affording fireplaces both up 
and downstairs, green shutters on the windows, all of these refinements 
made the seven-room house a pioneer showplace and one of great 

Here it was that the ex-soldier's son John, they called him grew up. 
He was conscious from the first of belonging to a family whom people 
regarded as community leaders. Neighbors came to the sturdy white 
house to get advice on agriculture, politics and local problems. They 
had good times there. The boy John would say later: 

"One of my earliest recollections is of my father's hospitality. When 
father raised a full crop, he would buy a full barrel of whisky and bring 
it home from Jefferson. If he raised a half-crop he would buy a half- 
barrel. He was a man to keep things in proportion. 

"It stood in an unlocked house. Any neighbor who cared to might 
stop and have a drink if he wished. Some of them did and some did not. 
So far as I know the idea was original with my father. I never saw or 
heard of anyone else doing it." 

Visitors not only drank the host's liquor, they played poker with 
him. John would remember two out of his father's many poker-game 
cronies. One was J. B. Whitfield, an ex-Confederate, who wore ruffled 
shirts and correct neckties and cherished the aristocratic manner of the 
old South. Whitfeld was the village storekeeper whose line included 
everything from groceries, clothing, farm implements, patent medicines 


to the men's-wear item six-shooters. The other was Dr. Bascom C. 
Thompson, the community doctor, who liked to call himself the best 
poker player in the vicinity until the elder Garner began to find 
leisure for this pastime. 

Whisky and poker, as social outlets for successful, well-adjusted men, 
were not considered vice in those days. The boy John did not think of 
them in such terms. Years later when he was Vice-President of the 
United States, he got huge enjoyment out of the supposed insult by 
John L. Lewis who called him a "labor-baiting, whisky-drinking, poker- 
playing, evil old man." 

The boy, too, heard plenty of swearing around his father's farm. 
Rough language comes naturally to outdoor men. The rude words 
rolled off the boy's consciousness like rain down the roof top. It had 
the ring of neither profanity nor obscenity, and in times to come the boy 
became one of the most proficient cussers in public life. His wife who 
took his dictation became used to the future Vice-President's expostula- 
tions of damn and hell. She once said: "After all, damn is a very 
expressive word." 

But there was something else that played a bigger part in Garner's 
childhood. This was politics. It became a dominant factor in the house- 
hold environment. When John was two, Texas regained statehood, and 
from then on politics was tirelessly talked and practiced everywhere 
he went. A state that had been under military rule and then carpetbag 
domination naturally would be very conscious of government. The 
Republicans still held the State House at Austin when he was six. When 
he was eight there was indignant talk that Grant was seeking a third 
term. This was unthinkable in Texas, especially in the Garner house- 
hold. Andrew Jackson, as everyone knew, had tried to get a constitu- 
tional amendment through Congress to safeguard the country against 
just such a catastrophe. In the end the Republicans nominated Hayes, 

The future Vice-President remembered this Presidential year 1876 
because he was old enough to feel the impact of what happened. His 
father was a sort of a pillar in Red River County now and a political 
lodestar. The Republicans had been swept out of the State House and 
good Texans like Richard Coke and Dick Hubbard were taking charge 
at Austin. Texas had Maxey, a sure-enough Confederate general, in the 
United States Senate. All this caused tremendous satisfaction to the 


elder Garner. It looked very much as if the Democrats were going to 
get their man, Samuel J. Tilden, in the White House. 

Young Garner was to remember two things about that election year. 
The first was that his father took him to a political rally at Coon Soup 
Hollow. Two candidates for constable engaged in a joint debate. The 
choosing of constable represented local self-government. The man 
elected constable would be elected by that precinct only and would be 
its highest elective officer. One of the candidates, thundering his plat- 
form to the farmers of Coon Soup Hollow, completely enthralled 
young Garner. He went away feeling he wanted to be an orator. The 
other thing he remembers was the celebration of Tilden's election, then 
the dispute over the result and finally the jolting decision of the Elec- 
toral Commission putting Hayes in the White House and furnishing a 
conversational marathon for Texas Democrats. 

They were in for a bruising adventure in the next Presidential year. 
This time there was more third-term talk. Grant and Elaine hooked up 
in an historic deadlock at the Republican national convention and Gar- 
field was the dark-horse compromise. The Democratic convention 
nominated a man dear to Texan hearts. He was General Winfield Scott 
Hancocka handsome soldier-politician in the great tradition of Jack- 
son and Houston. Hancock Union general that he was had a wide 
and affectionate acquaintance in Texas. He had succeeded Phil 
Sheridan as commander of the fifth military district and had showed 
an openhearted understanding of the Lone Star State's problems. Texans 
thought of him as a man who tried to help them emerge from the dark 
days of reconstruction. But Hancock lost to Garfield by a mere 7,000 
votes, in a total vote of 9,000,000, the closest Presidential election in the 
nation's history. The Democrats had gone down in two heartbreaking 
Presidential elections. 

He could remember another political incident of childhood. He was 
thirteen then and Arthur had come into the Presidency at the assassina- 
tion of Garfield. Men at the country store were discussing the tariff 
and wondering whether the Arthur administration would undertake 
revisions. Tariff in those years was the issue which more than any 
other marked the difference between the Republican and Democratic 
parties, the most discussed topic everywhere. Garner asked questions 
about the tariff. In after years he was to participate in four major tariff 

revisions and ask perhaps more questions about the tariff than any 
member of the American Congress. 

The childhood years were pleasant with the swimming holes, fishing 
streams and turkey and wild-game coverts in the pecan groves, and the 
wandering through the country with a bobtailed dog named Rover. 
He had two brothers and three sisters by this timethe same size family 
as his father had been raised in. But Mr. and Mrs. Garner apparently 
decided that twice as many children would be twice as good. They 
took on seven more to raise, and John's companionable instinct so 
notable in future years had plenty to work on. 

There were plenty of tasks to do. Farm people, whatever their finan- 
cial status, toiled from sunup to sundown and did the chores in dark- 
ness. Children plowed the fields as soon as they were tall enough to 
reach plow handles. Young Garner performed all the work connected 
with planting and harvesting and was assigned such tasks as milking 
cows, feeding the farm animals. By the time he was twelve he often had 
to forego school days to help with the farm, rising at four o'clock in the 
morning to do two hours of before-breakfast chores by lantern light. 

The family traits of energy and ambition left him vaguely unsatisfied. 
He knew that his father, though in rather comfortable circumstances 
now, had once been very poor and had always worked hard at physical 
labor. He knew, too, that his father unlike the Garner, Nance and 
Walpole forebears was not an educated man. He had had to make up 
in vigor and wit for what he missed in polish and formal education* 
John wanted money not just productive farmland to be sweated and 
toiled over. And he wanted book learning the very best. 

He got the money start before he had advanced very far toward an 
education. One of his father's hired men, Francis Parker, shared a 
room with John and was devoted to the pink-faced, blue-eyed ambitious 
boy. Along came John's, eighth birthday and Parker decided to give him 
five dollars as a present. But young Garner had his father's hotheaded 
independence and Parker knew it. So he gave him no present. Instead 
he promised him five dollars if he would pick 100 pounds of cotton. He 
picked 108 pounds, took the five dollars, bought a motherless mule colt, 
raised it, trained it and at the end of three years sold it for $150. He 
promptly banked the whole amount. This first bank deposit made a 
businessman out of young John Garner for life. It gave him a feeling of 


independence. He was careful to retain that feeling of independence 
all through the years. 

As for the education, he began it at his mother's knee. Sarah Garner, 
who epitomized the tenderness of frontier life just as the husband 
epitomized its storming energy, was deeply interested in the boy having 
an education. From her he obtained intellectual qualities and sensibili- 
ties. She taught him the alphabet and other early lessons. He was 
inducted further into the mysteries of education by Aunt Kitty Garner, 
his father's spinster sister one of the six children who made the 
covered-wagon journey to Texas. She was the family historian, the 
keeper of souvenirs, old letters and word-of-mouth memoirs. Aunt 
Kitty also had a shelf of books histories and the solid fare in Scott 
and Dickens of nineteenth-century households. 

At seven John had his first taste of formal schooling. He walked 
three miles, morning and evening, to the old unpainted schoolhouse at 
Antioch. The times were so hard in these reconstruction years, plus 
the long Southern financial stringency which followed the panic of 1873, 
that the schools seldom kept open more than four months a year. The 
curriculum consisted principally of McGuffey's Reader and Webster's 
Blue Blac{ Speller. E. L. Mowrey, his first teacher at Antioch, called 
him the best pupil in the school and said he excelled at all school games. 
Another teacher, F. E. Butler, said the boy's mind was huskier than his 
body and he was not physically capable of prolonged application. 

His health was better when he was next sent to boarding school at 
Bogota several miles farther south. There he studied under stern old 
Captain W. L. Rice. Captain Rice not only taught him history and 
mathematics, he also confirmed him in a love of literature. On Cap- 
tain Rice's shelves were the Bible, Milton, Bacon, Bunyan, Shakespeare, 
Samuel Johnson, Gibbons, Voltaire the best library for counties 

Such books were about the only reading available. The Galveston 
Weekly News had some circulation, but it came by stage coach over 
a distance of seven hundred miles. The stagecoach and covered wagon 
offered the only means of transporting people, mail and freight. There 
were regularly operated stage lines from Clarksville to Jefferson, 
Clarksville to Little Rock and Clarksville to Austin as well as other 
Texas points, and some periodical journals came this way. But 


schedules were not dependable. Muddy roads, swollen rivers caused 
delays often for days, sometimes for weeks. 

At fifteen, John was able to look further ahead in education. He 
wanted to go where the teaching was the best. This involved leaving 
home for a while. He still had the rnule money where it was safe and 
drawing interest, and he was willing to work after school hours. He 
went to his mother and told her of his plans to go away. He would 
fend for himself. 

"I don't wish to ask father for assistance," he said. "I don't believe 
I will have to." 

Soon afterward he set off for Blossom, in adjoining Lamar County, 
which was known to have the finest school system in that section of 
Texas. Two of the teachers were outstanding J. R. Walpole, a rela- 
tive, and Henry McDonald Fletcher. John boarded with the parents 
of Eugene Black, who later was to be his colleague in Congress and 
still later a member of the Tax Court of the United States. 

A railroad had been built now and the little town of Detroit sprang 
up at the edge of the jack-oak timber line four miles north of Blossom 
Prairie. Soon Detroit was a prosperous community and the Garners 
moved to a bigger house there. The country was changing and now 
Dallas had a population of almost 10,000 and was threatening Jefferson 
as the trading center of north and east Texas. 

At Blossom, Garner learned he could be paid for playing, as well 
as working. The fierce pride of a small community was to aid toward 
his education. Near by was Possum Trot and it had a baseball team of 
strong country boys who had repeatedly humiliated both Blossom 
and adjoining Coon Soup Hollow. The two communities merged 
forces and formed a 'baseball team to wipe out the stigma. Townsmen 
and farmers were willing to chip in to pay members of the team to do 
plenty of practicing. 

Garner played shortstop. At second base was Charlie Phillips and at 
first base was John Hancock. The Garner-to-Phillips-to-Hancock trio 
was to become something of a double-play combination. If Garner 
wasn't the Honus Wagner of the team, Phillips was its Napoleon 
Lajoie a very smooth performer. 

Gamer was the youngest player on the team and while he was not 
a particularly brilliant fielder or a fence-breaking hitter, he was its 


"holler guy" and "spark plug" its star player because of his spirit 
and hustle. Blossom imported a former professional baseball player 
and paid him to teach Jeff Dickey, the Blossom-Coon Soup Hollow 
pitcher, to throw a curve ball. Country pitchers in those days reared 
back and threw toward the plate as hard as they could and no one 
thought o trying to make the ball do tricks. Jeff Dickey could throw 
hard and with his newly perfected curve all Blossom and Coon Soup 
Hollow awaited with confidence the matched game with Possum 

Dickey's repertoire of curves and speed didn't work so well on the 
day of the big game. He lacked control. His curve curved, but, accord- 
ing to the umpire, it didn't curve over the plate and when he threw 
his fast one, Possum Trot hammered it to all corners o the field. The 
game was never finished. The two teams battled down to a ninth- 
inning tie and when Shortstop Gamer was called out on what he 
thought was a very raw decision at first base, he stormed at the 
umpire, heaping invectives on the arbiter. A first-class riot of players 
and spectators was underway and the game still remains tied. Garner 
was to continue to play semiprofessionally at Blossom and Clarksville 
for several years. 

John had other jobs during his middle and late teens, both during 
the school term and summer vacation. He clerked in his uncle's store 
at Detroit and for a hardware store and a saw mill in Texarkana. He 
continually added to the bank account. 

Two things, he once said, gave him his ideas of prudent private and 
public financial management. 

"My father told me if I had a dime and owed no one I was solvent," 
he said. "Oran M, Roberts campaigned and won election as Governor 
of Texas on a promise to conduct government on a 'pay-as-you-go' 
basis. I was ten years old when Roberts stumped the state on that 
issue. He became famous as a man who not only kept his promise 
but reduced the public debt and lowered taxes." 

At eighteen, Garner thought himself ready for college. Where would 
he go? Texas had colleges, including the proud new Texas Univer- 
sity at Austin, but he felt the strong family pull toward Tennessee. 
He wanted to live for a while where his parents and grandparents 
had lived. He wanted to take in some of the Houston-Jackson back- 

ground he had heard so much about. Vanderbilt University, at Nash- 
ville was at the very door of the Hermitage. He decided on Vanderbilt 
and took the decision to his parents. Once more he told them he would 
need no financial help. Mr. Garner, the old Confederate, smiled at his 
wife and said: 

"I think we will be proud of John." 

The train ride to Nashville was his first. Fond hopes and big expec- 
tations went with him when he left for Nashville. But no one ever 
discovered how much, if at all, a college education would have 
benefited this young man. He very soon found out that his pick-up 
education had a lot of gaps in it. This in itself might not have stopped 
him for he knew how to surmount obstacles by grinding work. His 
real trouble developed when his eyes began to pain him. As if that 
were not enough he soon developed symptoms of a lung complaint. 
Finally, as Garner told it later, he went to a doctor: 

"He told me I probably wouldn't live many years. I decided under 
these circumstances the money I'd saved was worth more than an 
education so I took it and went home." 

It was an inglorious return almost as melancholy a westward trip 
as his father had made at the end of the Civil War. But the son, like 
the father, began anew. He knew he did not have the physical stamina 
for the backbreaking toil of agriculture even if he had wanted to 
follow that pursuit. He went into the law office of Captain W. L. 
Sims and M, L. Wright. 

The old-fashioned law office which became his alma mater was 
better than a law degree to a lawyer who expected to practice in a 
state with community property and many other laws of Spanish 
origin, as Garner did. Sims knew not only the Anglo-Saxon system 
of law, but he knew the sources of all the law which had been woven 
into the Texas code the Jus Civile, the Partidas of Alfonso, the Re- 
copilacion of Castile, the Legislation of Justinian, the Nueva Recopi- 
lacion of the Indies and the Code Napoleon. 

All these things Captain Sims patiently imparted to the intelligent 
young law student. But while Garner was getting a maximum of 
instruction and of labor he got a minimum of financial reward. The 
latter he supplemented by playing baseball. 

Some of Garner's functions in the law office were hindered by the 

fact that he was not yet twenty-one. That was not a serious matter in 
this friendly part of Texas. On his petition a judge issued a court 
order which removed his disabilities as a minor. 

At twenty-one, Garner was admitted to the bar and set up practice in 
Clarksville. He used his first fee to buy an iron safe. But the con- 
fidence outran the performance at first. For what seemed a long, long 
time clients passed by his doorway. There was nothing of value to put 
in the safe. 

During these days of the doldrums, Garner made his first stab at 
politics. He figured that he could fill out his income, earn some prestige 
and gain some experience by becoming city attorney. He hurried down 
to enter his candidacy on the last day of filing. There wasn't much 
chance to get around and talk to the voters before election. He had only 
one rival to beat, but that proved one too many. On election day 
Garner found he had run a close second. 

He had not been feeling well during the campaign, but he put off 
seeing a doctor until the election was over. Then he got worse news 
than the election news. The doctor informed him he had developed 
tuberculosis and that he could not live unless he moved to a drier 
climate. For Garner there was only one solution the solution the 
Garners had always sought for their problems- go farther west. He 
scouted around and learned of an opening at Uvalde in the ranch 
country west of San Antonio. Uvalde had once been the intersection 
of the mail routes to Mexico and the distant West. 

For nearly half a century, it had possessed a reputation as a tough 
place on the southwest Texas frontier. It had been infested with bad 
Indians, bad Mexicans and bad Americans. The Canyon de Uvalde 
afforded a natural defense and shelter and from it the savages had 
operated. That is about all Garner knew about it, other than that it had 
the reputation of being about the driest climate between Clarksville, 
Texas and the setting sun. On that he made his decision. Garner relates: 

"I decided to accept the offer to go there. I didn't know whether I 
would ever get well or not. The way I was feeling I didn't much care. 
I went to my father, told him of my decision and asked him if he had 
any advice to give me. 

" 'Only this, John,' he said, Tell the truth and be a gentleman.' " 


la 1941, retiring as Vice-President after a distinguished career of 
thirty-eight years in Washington, Garner could say: 

"I don't know whether I lived up to the gentleman part or not, but 
I have never told an untruth to any person. The man who will tell a 
lie for his social, financial or political advantage either is a weak man or 
a bad man. It doesn't pay off even temporarily. Seldom is there utility 
in a lie, just futility." 

But on that December day in 1892 John Garner merely thanked his 
father and headed west. 


Gaffed Spurs 

JOHN NANCE GARNER reached Uvalde in the depression 
winter of 1893. On the way out on a slow train from San Antonio 
he was impressed with the roominess of the country. There was a 
house about every five miles. As he approached the town to which 
he was to bring national and international fame he counted his money. 
He found that he had $151.60 of unencumbered assets, or any assets 
at all. 

"It was night when I reached Uvalde," he told me. "I gave a hacker 
twenty-five cents to take me and my little trunk to the hotel. It was too 
dark for me to see much of my future abode." 

Garner was up at daylight for a sightseeing expedition around 
the 2,5oo-population trading center of an area as vast as the state o 
Virginia. It was at a time of year when the mesquite trees had shed 
their leaves, the grass was brown and coarse with only scattered live oaks 
to give a touch of life to the scene. He walked through the unpaved 
streets lined with frame buildings which housed mercantile houses and 
a sprinkling of saloons. Blacksmith shops and wagon yards filled in here 
and there, along with abode huts for Mexican laborers. 

"Hell's bells," he said to himself, "I'd rather be dead in Clarksville 
than alive here." But as soon as the bank opened he went in and opened 
an account with $150. 

The signature he left at the bank was Jno. N. Garner, and that was to 
continue to be his signature. Eventually he was to become sole owner 
of the bank and to have banks in near-by towns. 

From the bank Garner walked directly to the office of Clark and 
Fuller and completed arrangements to join the firm. An itinerant sign 
painter was passing through Uvalde and immediately the new shingle 

The office of Clark, Fuller & Garner was on the second floor over a 
saloon. The saloon was a sort of cattleman's club and the best place in 
Uvalde to get acquainted. Garner dropped in a few days later and found 
at the bar a rancher slightly worse for libation. The obliging young 
lawyer an hour or so afterward offered to take the cowman to his hotel. 

As they started out the cowman got a little mixed and thought it was 
he taking Garner to the hotel. Garner paused to show his new-made 
friend the spick sign of the firm of which he was junior member. 

"Clark fullern' Garner," the cowman read. "Clark fullern' Garner," 
he repeated. "All I got to say is, if Clark's fullern' Garner I don't want 
to meet him." 

But the first addition to his bank account did not come from law 
practice. There was a poker game among some cattlemen at the hotel. 
The young lawyer was asked to sit in. He had no hankering to risk his 
capital but the cattlemen were insistent. The game didn't last long, but 
the next morning Garner put twenty-two twenty-dollar gold pieces in 
the bank and Tully Fuller told him he had heard one of the participants 
in the game say : 

"That fellow isn't a lawyer. He's a slick gambler." 

Actually, Garner was and would always be, not a slick gambler, but 
a man with a shrewd sense of values. "I could make money on a rock,"" 
he once remarked casually. Bad* financial times never stopped him, 
and they were very bad indeed in 1893. Grover Cleveland was back in 
the White House after a four years' absence. He had rearrived there 
just in time to catch the full force of a financial panic that had been 
building up during some soft-money experiments by the Republicans 
under Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland put the stopper on inflation by 
hardening the currency weakened by the Silver Purchase Act of 1890 
with gold. He also tried and failed to do something about the pro- 
tectionist tariff which favored the moneyed classes against the agrar- 

A case has been made by Henry Adams, shrewdest observer of 
those days, to fix 1893 as the year in which America became finally 
and positively a capitalistic nation. Adams wrote: "For one hundred 
years between 1793 and 1893 the American people had hesitated, 
vacillated, swayed forward and back between two forces, one simply 
industrial, the other capitalistic, centralizing and mechanicaL But in 

1893 the issue came on the single gold standard and the majority at least 
declared itself, once and for all, in favor of the capitalistic system with 
all its necessary machinery." 

Garner, as always, was aware of the movement in national events. 
But he was now facing the nearer problem of becoming a capitalist in 
his own right. The division of the law firm's fees was to be Clark one- 
half, Fuller one-third and Garner one-sixth. The junior partner rode 
the judicial circuit for hundreds of miles in what was called the horny- 
and-thorny or the cattle-and-cactus country. He brought in so many fees 
that his percentage was increased. 

He soon won a reputation around the courthouses as an effective 
compromiser who could make a good settlement for his client out of 
court, and also as a good lawyer before a jury. For riding by horseback 
and buckboard over nine counties, carrying his bedding and often 
sleeping on the ground at night, Garner made between $500 and $600 
the first year. He got his health back and in the litde county seats, which 
usually consisted of a courthouse, four or five stores and a couple of 
saloons, he was getting an acquaintance which was to be very valuable 
to him. 

Not all of Garner's fees were in cash. His law firm accepted goats, 
cattle, horses, wool and other chattels, and Garner became its trader to 
convert these assets into cash. In settlement of one fee, he took a weekly 
newspaper, the Uvalde Leader. 

In addition to his law duties, Garner became editor, publisher and 
reporter. His printer helped him gather local items. 

"For a year, I wrote editorials which I hoped would mold public 
opinion," Garner told me. Most of the editorials preached economy in 
local government. When a vacancy occurred in the office of county 
judge, which also meant county manager, Garner was appointed to the 
vacancy and told to practice the economy he preached. The friendly 
twenty-five-year-old county judge was re-elected and then his economy 
got him into trouble. 

Judge Garner was charged with the administration of the county 
sick-and-poor fund. He had a distinct feeling that some of the Mexican 
laborers were receiving too much money from the sick fund. Some 
private sleuthing revealed that they were spending it for tequila and 

whisky. So he purchased some harmless pills and the next Mexican 
seeking money to allay an ailment was "doctored" by the Judge. 

Several days later it was reported the Mexican had died and the story 
was used against Garner with such telling effect that he was defeated 
for re-election. After the election Garner met the supposedly dead man 
on the street. His opponent's friends had kept the Mexican out of sight 
until after the election. It was the first and last time Garner was 
tricked in a campaign. 

Being off the county payroll caused the ex-judge no financial pangs. 
Much of his law practice had to do with cloudy titles and hazy 
boundaries. Garner founded a firm to search and abstract titles. It 
became an extremely profitable business and the firm is still in existence 
in 1948. 

Garner, while county judge, took the most important step in his life. 
He met and married Miss Mariette Rheiner, daughter of J. Peter 
Rheiner. Rheiner, a Swiss immigrant, partly owned and partly leased 
a 34,000-acre ranch near Uvalde. He had married Miss Mary Elizabeth 
Watson. She died when Mariette was an infant. 

After graduation from a boarding school, the Columbia Atheneum at 
Columbia, Tennessee, Mariette found life on the big ranch lonely and 
went to San Antonio to take a course in a business school. Such a 
thing for a girl of means was unheard of in those days, but Mariette 
Rheiner, like the man she was to marry, had a mind of her own. The 
young country judge was introduced to her on a train and eight months 
later they were married by the Reverend George Morrison at the 
Christian church in Sabinal, Their only child, Tully, was born Septem- 
ber 24, 1896, and named for Garner's law partner, Tully Fuller, thus 
breaking the line of John Nance Garners. 

Mariette Garner was the ideal wife for the man she married. She 
had good sense, a placid disposition and great faith in his future. She 
immediately became and remained his confidential secretary. 

Being out of office required a readjustment. Mr. and Mrs. Garner sat 
down and inventoried their assets, and decided on the future. He was 
approaching thirty. They had built a home. He had a law library and 
was collecting the home library which was to make him one of the 
best-read men in the nation. The proceeds from his. profitable abstract- 

ing company he was investing in bank stock and real estate. He decided 
he was content to settle down and grow with the country's growth. 

Then something happened to make him change his mind. W. H. 
Grain, the district's Representative in Congress died in Washington. 
A convention was called in Corpus Christi to nominate a successor and 
Garner was elected a delegate. By way of being forehanded he also 
picked up the proxies of eight or ten other delegates who were unable 
to attend. 

It was a long-drawn-out convention with dozens of nominating 
speeches. But Garner was anything but bored. He was learning from 
these speeches what kind of man was wanted as Congressman from 
Texas. Most of the nominating language, of course, was platitudinous. 
It called for a Congressman who was honest, candid, forthright, fear- 
less, wise, hard working, studious and patriotic. Gamer agreed. In his 
own mind he felt that he could fulfill these superlative descriptions. He 
decided then and there that someday he was going to Congress. 

Rudolph Kleberg, an owner of the million-acre King Ranch, won 
the nomination. This meant he would be in Congress for a long time. 
Any Kleberg would be hard to beat for office. Nevertheless, Garner 
went home to Uvalde and surprised his wife with the announcement : 

"Ettie, I am going to Congress." 

Just how he was to do it had to be worked out. 

"From that day," Garner told me afterward, "I began to study national 
issues. I had made up my mind I would never take a job for which 
I did not have the equipment and the experience." 

Garner always anticipated developments. Growth in population which 
had been heavy in the 'po's was certain to give Texas at least one addi- 
tional Congressman. Garner's experience as county judge gave him 
insight into local government. The state legislature would be a good 
training ground and enlarge his horizon by teaching him the practical 
mechanics of legislation and how to deal with men and situations. He 
ran and won a clear majority over three opponents. His preparation 
for a legislative career was beginning. 

Weighing 120 pounds he walked into the huge, new, pink granite 
capitol of Texas on January 4, 1899. The Spanish War with its triumphs 
and scandals had just ended. The conquest of the Philippines was about 
to begin. 

Garner's arrival was two weeks before the legislature was scheduled 
to convene. He wanted schooling in his duties, acquaintances and time 
to mature his plans for the session. Garner did not know a half-dozen 
people in Austin when he arrived. But in two weeks the friendly, engag- 
ing young man knew all the legislators and the key men in every 
department. In anticipation of two hot fights which loomed ahead 
insurance and railroad regulationhe began a study of trusts and 

Garner started his legislative career by sponsoring two lost causes. 
He backed for Speaker a man who had first-class ability but no chance 
for election. He then came out for the adoption of a new Texas con- 
stitution, knowing perfectly well that he could not win. But he was 
voting and acting on principle, in line with the nominating descriptions 
of an ideal lawmaker. 

His first real service in the Texas House was as the maiden member 
of the Appropriation Committee. Largely by Garner's doing, it became 
known as the "Blue Beard Committee" where many pork-barrel bills 
were summarily beheaded. This group handled 200 special appropria- 
tion bills during .Garner's first session. Only four came out with the 
pruning committee's recommendation for enactment. 

This experience marked the beginning of Garner's forty-year fight for 
economy in government. In his short life he had learned how hard 
men worked to make the money that went into taxes. He hated to see 
public money frittered away. His legislative district was far western, 
sparsely settled and practically anhydrous. People were struggling to get 
along in stock raising and were building their family lives for future 
generations. There had to be, as Garner saw it, a good reason for every 
dollar which the government took from these people's toil. 

In the legislature another aspect of Garner's character began to develop 
his hearty distaste for legislative trivia. He already believed in the 
principle of fewer laws and sounder ones. For forty years perhaps his 
most important service to American legislation was to act as a check 
on the flood of unsound or unimportant measures that impede the 
progress of the few vital bills before any lawmaking body. 

One day a fellow-legislator proposed a resolution of sympathy for 
the Boers in their war with Great Britain. Garner quickly moved to 
refer it to the committee on federal resolutions, adding with quiet 


to the struggle in South Africa. 

Garner's first long legislative tussle was the insurance fight. The 
growth of corporate enterprise had stirred the first mutterings against 
the trusts. Texas, flourishing, but with a scattered farm population, was 
a particularly rich field for the great Eastern insurance companies which 
were taking huge sums out of the state annually. 

Garner quickly got behind a bill to compel these companies either 
to invest a large portion of their premium returns in the state or give 
up their Texas business. The companies, alert to guard their interests, 
quickly organized a campaign of protests along modern lines, only to 
stimulate Garner's defiance: 

"If the insurance companies doing business in Texas belong to a trust 
either in or out of the state, I want to see them driven out. I believe 
the common people of Texas want to see this bill enacted into law. 
These telegraphic protests of my position have no effect on me. I shall 
act as I deem best for the majority of the people, regardless of all else/' 

This determination to protect the masses against exploitation by 
powerful organized interests appears again and again on the Garner 
record. But he never stooped to rabble-rousing half-truths. He relied on 
a sound knowledge of economic facts ingrained by his business experi- 
ence, on the habit of temperate study formed during his judgeship, on 
his instinctive understanding of people and their problems. 

This accounts for his attitude toward railroads at the turn of the 
century. Unquestionably the railroads had been welcomed with open 
arms and all possible inducements a few years before, but the Eastern 
tycoons were now taking advantage of the country's need for trans- 
portation to exploit the people and the states of the new West. 

In a generation the railroad kings had evolved a system of rebates, 
discriminatory rates and questionable bookkeeping that brought uncon- 
scionable profits pouring into their coffers, and also brought the forma- 
tion of the Texas Railroad Commission in an effort to keep railroad 
highhandedness in check. 

Garner was fixed in his conviction that business can be regulated 
without strangulation. Common carriers and public utilities were a 
great need in the developing new state. His own district, although 
bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, had no water outlet and scarcely a 


tenth of the rail mileage it needed. Actually, he thought, it was just 
possible that Texas was more dependent upon the railroads than the 
railroads were on Texas. The vast young state might be retarded in its 
development for decades unless the railroads were encouraged suffi- 
ciently to link the cattle lands and spreading farm areas with their 
logical markets. He urged moderation but voted for measures to compel 
railroads to handle freight unloaded by intercoastal steamships at Gulf 
ports without discriminatory charges. 

The legislature adjourned with railroad regulatory problems still 

In his zeal for bringing the government closer home to the people 
he had advocated that Texas divide itself into five states as it had the 
right to do under its treaty of annexation with the United States. This 
plan would have given the Texas area greater power in the United States 
Senate and more votes in the Presidential electoral college. But the state, 
proud of its size, reacted unfavorably. In Washington, Senator Joseph 
W. Bailey thundered : 

"You may divide Texas, but to which state will you give the Alamo?" 

Garner's first legislative term in Austin had been a productive one. 
He had lived legislative government. He was going to keep on living 
it until January 21, 1941, the day he ended his public career. Among the 
other things he had learned was that democratic lawmaking is largely 
a matter of give-and-take and that much of this is done on a promissory 
basis. Thus no legislator's influence is worth any more than his spoken 
word. Garner said: 

"Whatever it costs you to keep your word, the price is reasonable." 

He went home from the session more eager than ever to make good 
in the business of government. At nights he read history and studied 
parliamentary law. He still played some poker, but his home work and 
his mounting correspondence, even with Mrs. Garner's help, took more 
and more time. 

In June 1900, he was a delegate to the Democratic national conven- 
tion at Kansas City which gave Bryan his second nomination as the 
party's Presidential candidate. Bryan was snowed under by McKinley, 
but Garner won re-election to the state legislature without opposition. 

The railroad issue was still dominant when he returned to Austin. 
At the head of the opposition to the carriers was former James Stephen 

Hogg, father of the Texas Railroad Commission Act. Although out of 
office for six years, Hogg kept up his fight for railroad reform and 
regulation. In 1900, he asserted, the lines had issued 232,000 passes, 
mostly to public officials. Hogg wanted the practice outlawed by a 
$5,000 fine. This measure and some others came before the legislature in 
package form, known as the Hogg Amendments, 

The fight quickly became one of the bitterest ever staged at the 
Texas capitol. Hogg desired to appear in person to fight for his re- 
forms. But the opposition, recognizing the ex-governor's persuasive elo- 
quence, built a barrier of obstacles. 

When it seemed that the issue had reached an impasse which would 
stall the wheels of legislation completely and leave a lasting bitterness 
between the factions, Garner moved into the picture as a mediator. 

Despite his admiration for Hogg, the Uvaldian was not convinced 
of the wisdom and practicability of all the proposals. Some he favored, 
some he believed would impede the development of the Southwest, 
Hogg wanted them in a package, no compromise, all or none. Garner 
never liked a take-all-or-take-none attitude, but was willing for Hogg 
to have an opportunity to explain his sweeping demands. 

"I am not for making a political punching bag out of the railroads/' 
Garner said. "I think we can find a way to take care of the buccaneers 
without hampering the developers." 

He specified the parts of the Hogg proposals which he favored 
and the parts he opposed. Then he introduced a resolution to invite 
the former governor to appear before a joint committee of the two 
Houses of the legislature. By adroit manipulation Garner won his 
point. Hogg made his speech. Garner for the first time had distinguished 
himself as an oiler of troubled water. 

Later, while the amendments were before the House, the Speaker 
suggested that someone capable of giving an objective view of the 
issues be granted the floor. From both sides came cries for Garner. 

The press reported his appearance thus: 

"He is instructed by the people of his district to vote for the 
amendments, but he is personally opposed to them. He argued that 
the party mandate is binding and said that before he would violate 
instructions laid down by his constituents he would resign. 

"Asked, What would you do first, violate your oath to support the 


federal constitution or violate the instruction of your people?' Mr. 
Garner replied that the proposed amendments were not a violation of 
the federal constitution; if he thought they were, he would resign 
rather than vote for them." 

Another correspondent reported: 

"Mr. Garner was forced into making a speech on the question and 
he made an able one. While personally opposed to the amendments, 
he feels that it is a party demand and that he must support them. 

"His speech pleased both the friends and the opponents of the 
measure and was a great piece of oratorical and argumentative diplo- 
macy of which Mr. Garner is capable." 

The Hogg Amendments were defeated, although their provisions for 
the greater part later became law. 

For his part Garner emerged from the railroad war one of the 
dominant figures of the legislature. He had a progressive label but 
was a man whose personal friendship and political acumen was sought 
after by all factions. A legislative writer of the period recalls that 
"Garner was the one man in the House who made his points in open 
debate without making enemies, who could separate political issues 
and personal relations completely. He could, when he felt it necessary, 
challenge his closest friends on the floor without marring that friend- 

The fact that he had accepted instruction from a party convention 
to support legislation which complete study had convinced him to 
be unwise, had put him in an unhappy personal position. He decided 
on a course of candor which would have been suicidal for ninety-nine 
political figures in a hundred but became the winning card in the 
Garner deck. Before he was ever elected to representative office again, 
he would have an understanding with his constituents of the respon- 
sibilities of a Representative. 

In many instances the Garner of 1900 was seeing too far ahead to 
win majority support. He foresaw, for example, the dominant part 
mechanization would play in the American scheme and worked 
earnestly to establish technical training in the schools of the state. He 
failed and it was ten years before the courses were established. 

Where regional matters were concerned he stood as the spokesman 
for all that far-flung Western area. In his second legislative term he 


appeared often in this role. Thus his demand for a state bounty on 
ravaging wolves: 

"The people from the thickly settled counties seem to think, or at 
least act, as though west and southwest Texas were not a part of Texas, 
except for purposes of paying taxes. We pay into the Treasury hun- 
dreds of thousands of dollars, and when we come to the legislature to 
ask for a small sum of money to protect our lives and property from 
the ravages of wild animals, we are told that the state cannot afford 
the expense and that we must protect ourselves. I submit that this is 
unfair to those people who are struggling to make a living in that 
section and at the same time prepare it for occupation by future gen- 

By such legislation in the interest of stockmen at large, he had spread 
the people's reliance on him far beyond the county to which he was 
directly responsible. He had, in fact, won the attention and respect of all 
politically minded Texans and prepared the way for his next step. 

It is a political axiom that the more prominence a public figure 
attains, the better target he makes for legislative and editorial brick- 
bats. So it is more than an interesting fact that a study of legislative 
records and Austin newspaper correspondence at the time fails to 
disclose an uncomplimentary or disparaging shot at the Garner 
record. This despite the fact that, with characteristic candor, he set 
out to do what few men had attempted the carving out of his own 
Congressional district. 

Garner had not, as so many young politicians do, neglected bust 
ness to put all his eggs in the treacherous political basket. He had sim* 
ply superimposed the politician on the businessman. His law business 
flourished during his terms at Austin, and between sessions, he added 
to his ranch and bank holdings. In 1901, at the age of thirty-three, he 
was a solid citizen with property valued at from $40,000 to $50,000. 
He was fully equipped, financially and in experience, to move into 
the national political picture. 

The census of 1900 had confirmed the development he had foreseen 
years before: that rapidly growing Texas was ready for redistricting. 
Its population had shot up from 2,235,527 to 3,048,710 between 1890 
and 1900. Garner felt he was ready for Congressional service. But 
he had observed that large, thinly populated districts usually return 

their man to Congress indefinitely, and had decided to work for a 
reapportionment division which would place Uvalde in such a district. 

He had made no secret of his ambitions. He thought he was the 
best Congressional timber available and worked assiduously to win the 
support of his colleagues for his proposal. 

He asked to be and was made chairman of the committee on redis- 
tricting and carved out a district for himself. Then he took the floor 
and told his astonished colleagues that the bill he was asking them 
to pass was framed by him for the express purpose of creating a Con- 
gressional district in which he could be elected to Congress. Amazed 
at the man's frankness, his colleagues gave him the district which 
sixteen times elected him to Congress, one of those times when he 
was being elected Vice-President of the United States at the same 
time. This latter came about because Garner had been renominated 
for Congress when his Vice-Presidential nomination was made. The 
situation created a dual race. 

Home to Uvalde with a personally created Congressional district 
beckoning, he still had the essential accomplishment ahead. He had 
to be elected. He announced immediately for Congress, the fifty-eighth. 
To his regret so did a very able, distinguished and much more mature 
citizen, the Honorable Joseph B. Dibrell, who had represented Uvalde 
and neighboring counties in the state Senate for a number of years. 
DibrelTs friends were numerous, including many lawyers and county 

"I campaigned in a buckboard, driving a gray mare and a little 
mule," Garner said. "I passed up most of the county seats on the 
theory that the county officeholders, the lawyers and the politicians 
were against me. Why should I let them know what I was doing? 
But I did see nearly every other person in the district and most of 
the people outside the county seats were for me." 

If Dibrell had the support of the county machines, Garner had 
not lacked newspaper support. Most of the newspapers in the dis- 
trict were country weeklies. They were not particularly well edited, 
brilliantly written or objective in viewpoint, but the most of them 
were for erstwhile Uvalde Editor Garner. 

Garner's ideas on certain fundamentals were well matured in the 
thirty-fourth year of his life. On these issues the manner of his 


thinking was illustrated in his speeches and platform in the second year 
of the twentieth century. He highlighted fiscal problems as he was to 
continue to do in thirty-eight years o service in Washington. On two 
of them the then nonexistent income tax and the tariff which fur- 
nished most of the revenue to run a federal government then costing 
around a half-billion dollars annually his views were significant. 
He said: 

"I favor an Income tax as a means of raising revenue and regard 
it as the most equitable mode of taxation. I oppose the raising by 
taxation of more than is needed for the administration of the govern- 
ment, economically managed. It is just as necessary to watch the 
expenditure of the people's money after it is collected as it is to devise 
means for taxing the people to produce revenue. I, therefore., oppose 
centralization of government at Washington. It is a Republican prin- 
ciple and contrary to all Democratic teaching. I favor local self- 
government for the people." 

He opposed the use of the tariff for any other purpose than to raise 
revenue at the customs houses. 

"I favor a tariff fairly and justly imposed and so levied as not to 
discriminate against sections or industries," he said. "So long as it is 
the policy of the government to raise revenue by tariff", and afford by 
such tariff incidental protection, then I insist that the raw material 
of the South and especially hides, wool and livestock, shall receive 
the same degree of protection that may be afforded to the manufac- 
tured articles. We must 'buy from other countries if we are to sell to 
them. Therefore, the tariff should be competitive. 

"The doctrine of free raw materials tends to make a free trade 
South and West and a protected North and East, making unequal 
the burdens of taxation and increasing the wealth of the last two 
sections, and decreasing the wealth of the first two." 

On labor he favored the right to organize and bargain collectively, 
an eight-hour day for factory workers and other city workers where 
possible, and a department of labor in the President's Cabinet, He 
opposed compulsory arbitration because "the great danger in such a 
system lies in the opportunity of placing improper persons in the 
position of arbitrator." 

On national defense he said: 


"I favor a strong navy as strong as that of Great Britain which 
will cause our flag to be respected and will help our commerce pene- 
trate to all shores. I oppose a large standing army. Transportation 
rail, vehicular roads and waterways which the country sorely needs, 
is better for national defense than guns which quickly become 

On other issues, he said : 

"Trusts and monopolies restrict competition, increase prices, depress 
wages and rob the consumers of the country. Those trusts which 
control the prices of all articles necessary to the upbuilding of the 
country should be dissolved. The tariff should be taken off commodities 
controlled by them* and the market opened to the whole world. 

"Irrigation of the western states should be by national action. If 
we have the right to build levees along the Mississippi and we do, 
because flood waters do not stop at state lines we have the right to 
store the flood waters for reclamation of the arid regions. 

"No territory should be added to the United States save for the 
purpose of converting it into states whose inhabitants shall be citizens. 
The Philippines should be given their independence. 

"The Panama Canal should be constructed at an early date. It 
can be a great factor in the development of our commerce. 

"The tax on oleomargarine is class legislation of the most dangerous 
sort, unjust and sectional in its intentions, and gravely detrimental 
to the cattle interests and the cotton-seed interests of this country." 

His fairness to an opponent was exhibited in a speech at Sabinal, 
where his opponent Dibrell was scheduled to meet him in joint debate 
but was unable to keep the engagement. An account of it in the 
Sabinal Sentinel quoted Garner: 

"It has been reported that Judge Dibrell is an enemy of organized 
labor but he has told me that this is not true and I believe him. My 
own position is clear on this issue. I do not want my opponent's posi- 
tion misrepresented, I will never resort to trickery, untruths or half- 
truths to win votes." 

County after county went for Garner. The decisive one was Atascosa. 
Garner carried it by 200 votes. When Dibrell's manager telephoned 
the result over the single noisy telephone line into the county. Garner's 
opponent withdrew. 

In his announcement of withdrawal, Dibrell had said: 

"My time has been completely occupied with business for over two 
months and I have not been able to give my canvass for Congress any 
attention. For this reason the opposition against me has virtually 
secured my defeat." 

The Devine News, a weekly, quipped: 

"Senator Dibrell gives as his reason for withdrawing, the fact that 
his business was so pressing. We imagine it was Garner who was so 

Dibrell tried again. In a second statement he said: 

"Garner will make a great Congressman. The only thing urged 
against him is his youth. It is no crime to be young. He has been called 
a 'bantam rooster/ but he has two spurs, both gaffed, as anyone will 
find out who runs up against him. No one is better able to speak 
from experience than I am. He may not make a great oratorical dis- 
play in Congress, but while an unwary antagonist is making a speech 
Garner will know what he wants, will go out and work for it and 
get it. 

"He is as bright as a new made dollar and as clean as unsoiled linen. 
I doubt if he has ever done anything that is not creditable to him or 
ever will. It is not in the nature of the man/' 

Garner was given an acclamation nomination at the Congressional 
convention at Laredo, and the privilege of outlining his own platform. 

James B. Wells of Brownsville, a veteran Texas political leader, had 
been Garner's sponsor in the western part of his district. Pat Dunn o 
Nueces, a rancher and principal owner of ii5-mile long Padre Island^ 
had taken care of the eastern part of the district. 

Congressional candidate Garner and supporter Dunn met for the 
first time in a milling crowd in the lobby of the Tremont Hotel at 
Galveston, when the state convention met to ratify Congressional 
convention nominations. 

Garner, dressed for warm weather, wore a seersucker suit. He was 
undersized and none too prepossessing, and in no way the physical 
Congressional type Dunn pictured. 

A friend introduced them. 

"I didn't catch the name," said Dunn. 
"Garner," replied the candidate. 

"What, you are not John Garner?" 

"I am," was the reply. 

"And you are the man I am supporting for Congress?" 

"Yes, sir." 

Dunn shook hands none too warmly and went off to hunt up 
Judge Wells. 

"Judge," he said, "we have always been good friends. There is just 
one understanding I want with you. The next time you ask me to 
support a man, you are not going to get a commitment out of me 
until I have seen him first/' 

Garner still had a Republican opponent to defeat. 

Politically the district was the most doubtful one in Texas. It had 
thousands of Republican voters and the G.O.P. put forward John C 
Scott, a shrewd, successful and leading Corpus Christi lawyer. Scott 
was heavily bank-rolled by E. H. R. Green, son of Hetty Green, the 
woman wizard of Wall Street. There were Republican newspapers 
in the district and they hammered Garner. 

Said one newspaper, rather ineptly named as far as Garner was 
concerned, the Corpus Christi Crony: 

"If Garner won out, he could never even ascertain at Washington 
who wanted the postmastership at his own home town of Uvalde. If 
Scott were elected he could obtain all the information at Washington. 
Garner would be an outsider; Scott would be one of the gang." 

And the Texas Sun said : 

"Mr. Garner in the improbable event of his election would get nothing 
from the government but his salary that he could be depended on to 
"get with mathematical regularity, but how much good would that do 
his constituents? It would take a big man, who as a Democrat could 
get substantial recognition. It is absurd to imagine he would carry any 
weight with the administration or influence with Congress or be of any 
service to his constituents. 

"The only way he could get into the Congressional Record would 
be by hiring some contract writer to prepare a speech for him which 
he could send to the Speaker by a page boy, with the request that it 
be printed in the Record. This would be done as a matter of course, 
but as to his getting recognition by the Speaker, nonsense. He would 


never be heard from on the floor or in the committee rooms; he is 
utterly too small from any point of view to accomplish anything'' 

Garner's final majority was six thousand. 

He went to Washington, with one of the most unusual arrangements 
with his constituency ever made by any Representative. It constituted his 
idea of party platforms and representative governments and he let it 
be known what his attitude would be if at any time he got a flood of 
telegrams such as he got at Austin, during the insurance fight. He 
outlined the agreement in a speech in Corpus Christi, during the 

"Most of the unpleasant situations which arise come from misunder- 
standing," he said. "Therefore, I want a distinct understanding. The 
convention which nominated me drew a specific platform on some 
issues. On those there is an understanding between us. On other matters 
which arise, I want to make my position clear. This is a representative 
government. I want to be elected your representative and to serve this 
district as long as I can be your representative. I propose to study legis- 
lation and understand it to the best of my ability. I want the views of 
my constituents if you elect me. But when a piece of legislation is in 
its final form and comes up for a vote, you won't be there. You will 
be down here attending to your business. I propose to make up my 
mind on any measure and cast my vote according to what I think is in 
the public interest." 

The people of Corpus Christi liked that arrangement so well that in 
1909 they presented him with a watch which he was still carrying in 
1948. It bears the inscription: 

To John N. Garner, from the people of Corpus Christi, in grateful 
appreciation of faithful service. 


Freshman In Congress 

JOHN NANCE GARNER, Representative from the Fifteenth 
Texas Congressional District, walked into the historic chamber 
of the House of Representatives on November 9, 1903, and took 
a back seat in a body then composed of 398 members. 

President Theodore Roosevelt had called an extraordinary session of 
the Fifty-Eighth Congress to approve his Reciprocal Commercial Con- 
vention with Cuba. 

Garner's first vote was to be on the selection of a new Speaker. Scot- 
land-born David Bremner Henderson, at the end of two terms as House 
presiding officer, had retired to his Iowa farm. The choice for his suc- 
cessor was between two of the all-time greats of Congressional history. 

The Republican nominee was Joseph Gurney Cannon of Illinois, 
sixty-seven years old, and already a power in the House, chairman of 
the Appropriations Committee. The Democrats had put forward John 
Sharp Williams of Mississippi, nearly twenty years younger than 
Cannon, the best-educated member of the House of Representatives and 
perhaps the best debater of all the Democrats, then serving. There was 
no doubt about the outcome. The House was Republican. Cannon was 
elected, 198 to 167, with 19 not voting, and began his eight-year term, the 
longest continuous one of any Speaker to that time. Williams became 
minority leader. 

The distinction of the members of the House in the Fifty-Eighth Con- 
gress equaled that of any in American history, excelled any in the 
twentieth century. It was the beginning of the short-lived golden age of 
the more numerous branch of Congress. Its members were for the next 
four decades to furnish more headlines than those of any House of 
Representatives of all time. 


Joe Robinson of Arkansas; Carter Glass of Virginia; George W. 
Norris and Gilbert M. Hitchcock o Nebraska; Nicholas Longworth of 
Ohio; J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama; William Randolph Hearst of 
New York; Victor Murdock of Kansas; Arsene P. Pujo of Louisiana; 
Ollie James and Swager Sherley of Kentucky; Andrew J. Volstead and 
J. Adam Bede of Minnesota; Butler Ames of Massachusetts; Big Tim 
Sullivan and Francis Burton Harrison of New York; Asbury Lever of 
South Carolina; Morris Sheppard and Jack Beall of Texas and Camp- 
bell Slemp of Virginia were some of the rookie Congressmen who faced 
the dais for the first time and took the oath from Uncle Joe in his first 
hour as Speaker. 

The parade of future Congressional celebrities which accompanied 
Garner over the threshold of history that day and the sitting members 
already there had the makings of: 

Three future Vice-Presidents: Sherman, Curtis, Garner. 

Five future Speakers: Clark, Gillette, Longworth, Rainey, Garner. 

Three Cabinet members: Burleson, Glass, Swanson. 

Three tariff-bill authors: Payne, Underwood, Fordney. 

An anti-trust-law author: Clayton. 

An eight-hour-day creator: Adarnson. 

The prohibition amendment and enforcement act writers : Sheppard 
and Volstead. 

The Federal Reserve Act architect: Glass. 

And quite an assortment of names for the history books to come. 

The Six J's and Sereno took control of the House when Cannon be- 
came Speaker. Joe, Joha and the four Jims were the oligarchy. John 
Dalzell on the Rules Committee was really Cannon's second in com- 
mand. Jim Sherman, Jim Hemenway, Jim Tawney and Jim. Watson 
carried out the orders. Sereno Payne was officially floor leader but 
devoted himself principally to his chairmanship of the Ways and Means 
Committee and tariff chores. 

Cannon understood the place of the House in the government scheme, 
made it respected and performed his duty to the House as he saw it. 
Even with a popular President in the White House he could lift his 
branch of Congress to its highest peak, prove that it need not be sub- 
merged. He could tell Theodore Roosevelt, as he did, that "the House 


could take care of its reputatioa and its dignity in its own way." 

Garner was to have close friendships with nearly every one of the 
topliners of the Fifty-Eighth Congress. With one of them, Nick 
Longworth, a freshman from Ohio, he was to have perhaps the most 
famous friendship of Congressional history. 

The Cuban reciprocity bill passed the House in ten days, on Novem- 
ber 19. Most of the Democratic party jumped the fence to support it. 
Only twenty votes were cast against. One of those was the vote of John 
N. Garner. 

Garner in a statement said his opposition to the bill was in line with 
the platform upon which he was elected. 

"I can do but one thing vote against this bill," he said. "I told the 
people of the Fifteenth District of Texas that I was opposed to trusts 
and would do everything in my power to destroy them. Now to ask 
me to cast my first vote in Congress for legislation to benefit two of the 
most gigantic trusts this country has ever known is asking too much. It 
is asserted that we are benefiting Cuba when we pass this bill, but every 
man who reads the press of the country knows that the principal 
products exported from Cuba to the United States are tobacco and sugar, 
and that more than 90 per cent of each of these articles produced by 
Cuba is controlled by the respective trusts." 

He was to maintain throughout his public life that a platform 
promise was a solemn covenant with his constituency. 

The big names and big reputations of the members of the House o 
Representatives in no way awed Garner. He told me: 

"When they came into close range they appeared different to me 
than they did before I got to Washington. I decided that in time I 
might do as well as anyone there. I got just as ambitious as anyone. 
I concluded that, if I did not have as much talent as some members, I 
could devote more energy to the job. I knew it was a long climb. So 
for the first few years I just answered roll calls, looked after chores 
for my constituents, studied, played poker and got acquainted. 

"Instead of attempting to start right out making laws I decided to 
get acquainted with men who were in the business of making laws. 
Lawmaking is a high calling. I intended to try to stay for a long time 
and I had no idea of trying to attract attention to myself by cheap 
or trivial methods. 


A vivid proof of the pride Texas was to have in Garner. This 
was drawn when Garner had established his position and was 
being considered as a 1932 Presidential possibility. (C. K. Berry- 
man, Washington Star) 

"I not only wanted to, without intruding, get acquainted with the 
men who occupied the high place, I wanted also to get acquainted with 
the men who began their service at the time I did. It was with these 
men I hoped to work longest. I studied not only legislation, but espe- 
, daily I studied men. They came from all parts of the country and 
represented every variety of thought. If you knew them all, you knew 
human nature and you very nearly knew the country. 

"That first session increased my respect for competency and political 
aptitude. I learned that ability unsupported by character is a dangerous 
thing. You could tell who was solid and who was a false alarm by 
watching them on the floor or reading the Congressional Record." 

The salary of a Congressman was $5,000 a year when Garner began 
his service and he intended to live on that if possible. Mrs, Garner 
was insistent on that, too. She knew her husband faced two gauntlets 

[ 35 1 

in Texas the next year first a campaign under the newly enacted 
primary election law and then Republican opposition in the general 
election. She frankly doubted if he would be sent back to Washington. 
They found for themselves one of the Washington boarding houses 
of that day, conducted by Mrs. Lillie B. Creel on K Street, just across 
from Franklin Park. The office building for members of the House 
of Representatives had not been built and the Garners fitted up a room 
in the boarding house and used it for an office. Mrs. Garner, as the 
secretary, answered the mail. 

Within two weeks after his arrival in Congress and within a day or 
two after voting against the Cuban reciprocity convention, Garner went 
to the White House to pay his respects to the redoubtable Theodore 
Roosevelt, who recalled a hunting trip in the Uvalde area while he was 
in San Antonio training the Rough Riders. 

Garner suggested to the President that the Rough Riders ought 
to hold their next convention at San Antonio and the President ought 
to attend. 

"The people in Texas like you, Mr. President," he said. "They 
would show you a grand time. They'd do anything for you except vote 
for you." 

That was the beginning of a friendship between the President and 
the young Texas Representative. 

Garner had hardly got set in Washington before one of those duties 
which a member of Congress must perform for his district came up. 
The War Department was considering abandoning several cavalry 
posts and the one at Brownsville, in his district, was one of them. 

"Well,, that was part of my job I hadn't thought about," he said. 
"I didn't know what to do but an older member told me to go see 
the Secretary of War. I went to Secretary Taft's office. A clerk or 
somebody asked me my name and my business. I told him but that 
didn't seem to make any impression. I sat and sat. Finally I asked the 
man if he had forgotten me. He said no, just wait. I waited and 
waited. After a while he motioned to me and led me to a door. A lot of 
people had gone through the door but none had come out. As I went 
in, the man told me I could only stay a few minutes. I walked to 
Taft's desk. 

"Hardly looking up he asked me what I wanted. I told him about the 


troopers and he said he would make a note of it. Before I could say 
anything else, his secretary was ushering me through a side door. 

"Ten days passed. I heard nothing from the Secretary of War. 
But I heard plenty from my district. I had received so many telegrams 
that I knew I would never come back to Congress if Brownsville lost 
the cavalry. This time I went to the War Department and stood 
outside the little door through which callers were dismissed. The first 
time they opened that door and a man got put out, I grabbed the door 
and walked in. Before the secretary could say anything I walked to 
Taft's desk and began talking. I thought I was entitled to the courtesy 
o an answer to my inquiry and I made this known in no uncertain 
terms. I was so vehement that Mr. Taft looked up in astonishment, 
and said, 'Young man, what's the matter ? Have a seat.' 

"As I did, he swung his chair around and asked me what he could 
do. He evidently remembered nothing about my previous visit. 

" 'It's about the cavalry,' I said. 

"'What cavalry?' he asked. 

" 'The troopers at Brownsville.' 

"'What about them?' 

" 'You are planning on moving them and you can't move them. It's 
a matter of economics to us.' 

"'Economics, what has the cavalry to do with economics?' 

" 'Mr. Secretary, it's this way. We raise a lot of hay in my district. 
We've got a lot of stores and we have the prettiest girls in the United 
States. The cavalry buys the hay for its horses, spends its pay in the 
stores, marries our girls, gets out of the army and helps us develop 
the country and then more replacements come and do the same thing. 
It is economics, sir. It is economics.* 

"Taft chuckled. 'I won't move the cavalry without talking to you/ 
he said, and I left. 

"In a few days I was notified that President Roosevelt wanted to see 
me. With some misgiving I went to the White House. He told me 
to have a seat and then looked at me sternly and inquired: 

" 'Young man, what is this I hear you have been telling my Secre- 
tary of War?' 

"'Nothing, sir, but giving him a little lesson in economics/ I 


"'Now look here/ replied the President, 'the next time you are 
giving any lessons in economics, you see me first. Why, don't you 
know the word about what you told of the attractions has got around 
and half the army is applying for transfer to Brownsville?' 

"We both laughed and then he said: 1 called you here to tell you 
that the cavalry will still patrol your border.' 

"Taft never forgot the incident. After he became Chief Justice, 
we met frequently at the Capitol and each time he would walk up, 
take me by the hand, draw me close and inquire: 

"'Well, John, how is the cavalry getting along?'" 

In December 1903, Garner crowded into the tiny Supreme Court 
chamber midway between Senate and House chambers to hear the 
argument in the Great Northern Securities case. It had been for 
months and would be for months more to come the biggest source of 
interest and speculation in Washington and the country. It was one of 
the great historical test cases, for the outcome would decide so many 
thought whether the United States was governed from Wall Street 
or Washington. 

It was all such a conglomeration of James J. Hill and E. H. Harri- 
man, the rail titans; of Great Northern and Northern Pacific and other 
confused interlocking control and Roosevelt trust busting that the 
average citizen had trouble in understanding it. Garner was especially 
interested in this case. He was fresh from railroad legislative battles 
in Texas and hoped for a decision that would preserve free competition 
between the carriers, but would not hamper the building of new rail 
lines which his state needed so badly. 

Theodore Roosevelt was determined that the Northern Securities 
Company should be dissolved. Taking all necessary precautions to see 
that the government won he engaged in a tidy bit of court packing. 
He talked with Lodge about the Supreme Court vacancy and was con- 
vinced that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the Massachusetts 
Supreme Court, held views coinciding with his. Holmes at sixty-one 
thus began his long career on the highest tribunal. Roosevelt expected 
a clear-cut seven to two verdict in his favor. When the decision came 
down the dissolution of Northern Securities had been ordered, but on 
this issue Roosevelt had squeaked through with a five to four victory 
and Holmes was one of the four against him. 


Even the five Justices who decided for the dissolution wrote a far 
less conclusive decision than T. R. had expected. Garner considered the 
decision a dogfall which left issues of regulation up to Congress. 

On December 7, Speaker Cannon, sole dispenser of Congressional 
committee favors, handed out the assignments. Garner got about 
what a Congressional tyro could expect, a place on the Committee on 
Railways and Canals. 

The day the assignments were announced Garner dropped into 
the hopper a bill providing a survey for an intracoastal canal, which 
would eventually connect Brownsville and Corpus Christi in his dis- 
trict with the Mississippi and Ohio, It was so adroitly worded that it 
would have to go to his new committee instead of the Committee on 
Rivers and Harbors. 

Reporting on the matter, the correspondent of the Dallas News- said: 

"In the committee lottery, which has just been pulled off in the 
House, Mr. Garner drew that of Railways and Canals. It is said by 
some of the ancient habitues of the capital that far back in the dim 
and musty past, before American legislation commenced to grow 
whiskers, the Committee on Railways and Canals had a meeting but 
these dealers in Washington reminiscences admit that the report is 
strongly tinctured with the vital attributes of fiction. 

"Mr. Garner proposes to give the committee something like a shock 
which Gabriel's trumpet will hand out to slumbering humanity on 
the morn of resurrection by having a bill referred to it for considera- 
tion. He has already introduced the bill and it now remains to be seen 
just what sort of effect the assembling of this committee will have on 
the sensibilities of Congress. If the committee is revitalized success- 
fully, Mr. Garner will have accomplished much, but it is feared he 
had disturbed the traditions." 

The Galveston News, commenting editorially, said: 

"Congressman Garner was appointed a member of the House Com- 
mittee on Railways and Canals. Just to find out if such a committee 
really existed, he has introduced a bill which must go to it for con- 
sideration. Mr. Garner is always admirable in the beginning of a game 
to find out exactly how it is played." 

Some Texas papers attacked the intracoastal canal proposal as ridic- 
ulous. But Garner said it was anything but that. 


Appearing at a meeting at Victoria, Texas, to organize the Intra- 
coastal Canal Association, he said: 

"It may take fifty years to complete it, but it will be authorized and 
completed from the Rio Grande to the Mississippi. It will be a protected 
inland waterway and as such a national defense bulwark." 

The periodical, Southern Industrialist, praised the intracoastal canal 
project as a long-visioned one. 

Representative James H. Davidson, of Wisconsin, chairman of the 
Committee on Railways and Canals, was never more astonished than 
when his clerk informed them there was a bill before his committee. 
Davidson once had been a stern schoolmaster and he didn't like prac- 
tical jokes. It was March before he got his committee together. It held 
hearings and reported the bill unanimously. Then the committee went 
back to its slumbers and played host to no more fledgling legislation. 

The Garner bill after a legislative buffeting became law. Forty-five 
years later, in 1948, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, fathered by Gar- 
ner, extended from the west coast of Florida to the Mexican border, 
connecting midway at New Orleans with the vast inland waterway 
system of the nation. It carried millions of tons of cargo annually and 
had changed its Rio Grande to the Mississippi slogan to "from Mexico 
to Maine." 

A month after his arrival in Washington, Garner was perplexed by 
the perennial headache of Senators and Representatives of that day, 
insufficient supplies of field and garden seed, and he wrote to John 
Moore of Seguin what he said was the first and last letter of apology 
or explanation he ever wrote to his district. His letter to Moore said: 

"The impression seems to prevail that the Secretary of Agriculture 
will distribute, through the Congressmen, free seed to each farmer; 
but from the enclosed letters you will see that there are only 220 bags 
apportioned to each Congressman, and that it would be an impossible 
matter to comply with the many hundreds of requests I have already 

"As you know, there are twenty-two counties in the Fifteenth Con- 
gressional District, and the quota of seed allowed me only permits ten 
bags to each county and I shall do my best to distribute it as equitably 
as possible." 


Congress and its duties were the whole life of Garner in his early 
years there. 

There was sparkle in the debates, extraordinary aura of excitement 
on such occasions as when Bourke Cockran, the best Democratic 
orator in the House matched against John Daizell, most redoubtable 

No speeches could arouse Garner's faculty of delight like those of 
John Sharp Williams. 

"Williams' speeches were polished and stately, and they were always 
entertaining," he said. "You wanted to hear them and you wanted to 
read them afterwards." 

Once Garner acted as peacemaker between Williams and the acerb 
De Armond of Missouri, both Democrats, when they were near to 
fisticuffs in the lobby of the House. 

"The three of us together were not as big as Ollie James of Kentucky 
who looked on in amusement only a couple of steps away," Garner said. 

Peacemaker Garner weighed 123 pounds at the time, while of the 
gladiators, the belligerent De Armond weighed in at 124 pounds and 
the bellicose Williams at 125. 

During the session Williams grumbled because the House liquor bar 
had been closed. It had been in operation since time immemorial. But 
as Congress hurried to a March 4 adjournment, on March 3, 1903, a 
rider had been attached to an appropriation bill expressedly stating 
that "no alcoholic beverages of any character whatsoever shall be sold 
within the limits of the Capitol building," 

It was, said Williams, "Sham and hypocrisy." 

But Shoemaker's, a famous saloon, was close by. 

Williams was keen as a minority floor leader. The G.O.P. had a 
majority of only thirty votes. Williams could melt that majority away 
unless Speaker Cannon and his lieutenants kept wide awake. 

"Cannon and Williams that session were shining marks in the case 
for the two party system," Garner said. "I doubt if a multiparty legis- 
lative body could have developed two such men. One had a definite 
majority behind him. The other had a cohesive minority. There was 
responsibility. There were no blocs." 

The poker games Garner played were generally with the biggest men 
in the House of Representatives. They were useful in getting votes for 

the few bills he sponsored, but principally as an insight into the char- 
acter of the men with whom he played. 

His first game with "Uncle Joe" Cannon occurred at the Boar's 
Nest, a private club. A printed account of the game in a gossip 
magazine o the day described it: 

"There was a huge pyramid of white, blue, red and yellow chips in 
the center of the table. From opposite sides the Speaker and Mr. Gar- 
ner gazed on it with equal expectancy, everyone else having lost all 
but a cursory interest in it. It came to a showdown. The Speaker 
proudly displayed three aces and a pair of insignificant others. Mr. 
Garner counted out four fours, and blandly inquired. 'Will that be 
enough, Mr. Speaker?' 

"'Sir,' replied the Speaker, 'any man who can do that honestly 
honestly mind you has my profound admiration.' " 

The chances for getting four of a kind are once in four thousand, 
one hundred and sixty-five deals. 

From then on Speaker Cannon and Garner were close friends. Be- 
fore the end of his first term, on February 25, 1905, the House was 
ready to consider a resolution to set aside a day to receive the statues 
of the Texas heroes, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, in the 
Capitol's statuary hall. Cannon looked over on the Democratic side, 
ignored Burleson and the other seniors in the Texas delegation and 
beckoned Garner to the Speaker's chair to preside. Joe Cannon may 
have thought he was merely furnishing a pleasant episode for the 
short and simple annals of a rookie Representative. But Garner had 
another idea. 

"When I left the Speaker's chair that day," he told me later, "I 
had made up my mind I was going back as its elected occupant. That 
night in my boarding hotel, I started studying parliamentary proceed- 
ings. Thereafter, if ever before, I never wanted to be Judge, Governor, 
Senator, President or Vice-President. I wanted to stay a member of 
the House and, if possible, become its Speaker. So I studied and 
watched Uncle Joe. I voted against him many times, but I rate him 
the greatest of modern Speakers. He would have been that regardless 
of the rules under which he operated, and which we finally amended 
to take power away from him. He was greatest because of his char- 
acter. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and exactly how to do it." 


On January 5, 1905, Garner made the first remarks he ever made on 
the floor of the House, questioning Representative Ebenezer J. Hill 
of Connecticut, on a currency matter. 

On January 30, he introduced a bill to levy an income tax by statute, 
but when members of the Judiciary Committee told him they doubted 
if such a law would stand a constitutional test in the Supreme Court, 
Garner did not press his bill. 

He thus ended his legislative record for his first Congressional term. 

He was in no hurry to get his name before the general public. 

The Presidential year of 1904 opened with much uncertainty and 
speculation. Theodore Roosevelt blandly assumed that, as Presidential 
incumbent, he had the Republican nomination buttoned up. But his 
opinion was not shared in Republican cloakrooms. Garner said in a 
newspaper interview in Texas that he did not believe one-fourth of the 
Republican House members favored T. R. 

Mark Hanna, the kingmaker, who enthroned the martyred McKinley, 
was said to have his own eye on the White House. Certainly Hanna, 
either in person or behind another candidate, could have made it tough 
for Roosevelt. But the kingmaker died in February and from then on 
the Rough Rider had a clear track to the nomiaation. 

The Democratic situation was much more complicated. Bryan, who 
had absorbed two successive defeats, announced he would not be a 
candidate but would continue to fight for progressive ideas. 

Garner had been elected as delegate to the Democratic national 
convention at St. Louis. Many o Bryan's ideas appealed to Garner. 
The Commoner was the active foe of the trusts, the Eastern bankers 
and, in fact, every reactionary and oppressive influence in the nation. 
Where they parted company was on soft money the silver issue. Bryan 
was still trying to save the country from crucifixion on the cross 
of gold. 

Garner regarded as unjustified Bryan's attack on Judge Alton B. 
Parker as "unfit for the nomination. 5 * Parker's most formidable op- 
ponent was William Randolph Hearst and Bryan put Hearst down 
on the list of acceptable Presidential nominees. Garner, who had twice 
supported and once helped to nominate Bryan and who was a House 
colleague of Hearst, considered that under all the circumstances 
Parker was the best candidate for the Democrats. At the St. Louis 


convention, therefore, Garner voted with the majority for Parker's first 
ballot nomination. 

As matters turned out, no Democrat had a chance, but Garner was 
disgusted when the convention nominated eighty-one-year-old Henry 
Gassaway Davis as the Vice-Presidential running mate. The fact that 
Parker would not campaign and Davis could not, he felt had a large 
part in Roosevelt's one-sided triumph over Parker. 

Garner had no opposition for the Democratic nomination in his 
district, but faced a Republican opponent and another hot campaign 
in November. 

His off-the-fioor activities for his constituents brought him new 
support and the country weeklies with few exceptions rallied strongly 
to his side. One newspaper which opposed him made an issue of 
Garner's alleged dress in Washington. 

Just before the election it printed this squib: 

"A tale from Washington is to the effect that John Nance Garner, 
who represents the Fifteenth Congressional District in Washington, 
attended a swell ball at the White House recently without Mrs. 
Garner, and danced the square dance with as many of the young girls 
present as he could, going home early in the morning with his dress 
suit still undamaged." 

Garner, actually, up to that time had been to no> dance at the White 
House with or without Mrs. Garner, and did not yet have a dress suit. 

Garner's Republican opponent was J. S. Morin and his majority was 
less than the election before. But the poll tax, in operation for the first 
time in Texas, had cut the total vote down by ten thousand in 
Garner's Congressional district. 

Garner's defeated Republican opponent went to Washington and 
Garner took him to see President Roosevelt. Roosevelt shook hands 
warmly with both of them. T. R., after a landslide victory was in a 
happy mood. 

"I like you, Garner," Roosevelt said. "I like the way you fight. I like 
to see men fight hard and when the fight is over shake hands and be 

Morin told the President: 

"Mr. President, from now on I am a Roosevelt and Garner man. 
I want Garner to stay in Congress." 


Morin back in Texas, said: 

"Upon my arrival in Washington, I at once looked up Mr. Garner, 
our Congressman, who very kindly showed me every courtesy in his 
power, and I want to say that I firmly believe Mr. Garner is the most 
influential among the Texas members. He is on excellent terms with 
the President and all the heads of the departments. He has won the 
reputation of getting what he goes after and he goes after everything 
insight. He is the most valuable man, Democrat or Republican, that 
this district can put in Washington." 

Speaker Cannon again passed out the committee assignments and 
this time Representative Garner got Foreign Affairs. 

Garner's first act as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee 
was to attend a dinner given to the Committee by Secretary of State 
Root. After the dinner he said : 

"As near as I have been able to figure out the chief functions of the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs is to attend as many dinners and 
banquets and do as little work as possible.*' 

But he remained on the committee for eight years, attended its 
meetings and rose to be its ranking Democratic member. With Secre- 
tary Elihu Root he mapped out plans for discussion with Mexico on 
an agreement or treaty for more equitable distribution of the flood 
waters o the Rio Grande. 

When Garner took his place at the extreme left end of the table in 
the Foreign Affairs Committee, Nicholas Longworth took his seat at 
the extreme right end. The hourglass gradually brought them closer 
together at the table and deepened their friendship. 

Longworth was a year younger than Garner, lacking a few days. 
When Garner was leaving Vanderbilt University, after only a month 
there, Longworth was entering Harvard. When Garner was reading 
law in a law office, Longworth was in Harvard law school. The year 
Garner entered the Texas legislature, Longworth entered the Ohio 
legislature and they came to Congress together. They had made up 
their minds for public careers at about the same time. 

For a quarter of a century they were to be political foes and fast 
personal friends. They were to stand at the end of their association as 
the top Congressional leaders in their respective parties, one as Speaker 
and the other as leader of the minority. 


Both were intense partisans. Their differences and their acrimonious 
political battles, in which no quarter was given, and their personal 
devotion to each other became one of the best-known stories in 

Their widely divergent viewpoints first began to manifest them- 
selves in the Foreign Affairs Committee and then on the floor of the 
House. As they moved into leadership places in their party it became 
their habit to meet every afternoon after Congress adjourned and 
review the happenings of the day and the probable happenings of 
the next day. 

Their backgrounds were far different. Longworth came from a first 
family of Cincinnati and Garner from the frontier. 

"I think the very fact of our different rearing intensified our interest 
in each other/' Garner said. 

Longworth was the best-dressed man in Congress. Garner for years 
was among the worst dressers. 

Longworth was courting at the White House, shortly after he and 
Gamer became acquainted. On February 17, 1906, the sunniest winter 
day of that year, he was married to Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the 
President, in the East Room of the White House. T. R. gave his daugh- 
ter away in a ceremony performed by the Bishop of Washington. 

The wedding was the biggest social event that had occurred in 
Washington up to that time. The only other to match it in interest 
was the wedding of President Grover Cleveland and Miss Frances 
Folsom, in this same East Room. 

Eight hundred guests princes, potentates, diplomats and prominent 
Americans attended. A few of Longworth's close personal friends from 
Congress were there. Among them were Mr. and Mrs. Garner. 

The Alice-Nick romance had begun on a trip they had made during 
the summer of 1905, as members of a party that accompanied Secretary 
of War Taft to the Philippines. 

Garner won re-election in 1906, with the Republicans putting up the 
usual opposition. Garner followed his custom of making no campaign 
other than an appearance or two and a couple of speeches. Even -the 
one newspaper which had continued to oppose him apparently gave 
up the fight against him. An editorial paragraph in it read: 

"John Garner seems to be so well entrenched that he can bring home 


to Texas this year that claw-hammer suit he wore to Nick Longworth's 

Whatever enthusiasms, energies and ideas Garner had in his second 
term he did not spend them in speechmaking. He used the House 
floor as a sounding board no more than in his first term. Once or twice 
he engaged in colloquies, but his only formal remarks were made on 
April 29, 1906, on the death of Texas Congressman John M. Pinckney. 
He spent most of his time getting information on problems that would 
confront Congress. 

He was by now spending much of his time with members from 
the industrial areas. The machine age he had seen coming was at 
hand. He began to study and discuss in private the problems of in- 
dustrialism. In his first campaign he had advocated an eight-hour day 
for factory and city workers and a Cabinet seat for Labor. But he 
frankly said he would make no tie-up with labor or any other element 
of the population. In several speeches at home he warned of the 
dangerous concentration of power that might lodge in big labor unions 
as it certainly lodged in capitalistic combines. He described his posi- 
tion as "middle ground" and said he would support any "proposal deal- 
ing with labor I think wise and oppose any I think unwise." His 
carefully thought out pronouncements pleased the labor leaders of the 
day as did his vote for the Employer's Liability Law. In 1906, the 
magazine Labor World took notice of him as follows: 

"John N. Garner has ever been a friend of the working man, and 
has given his unremitting efforts to all legislation that has for its 
objects the furtherance of the interests of organized labor. He has 
no sympathy with the ultraradical movements which tend to destroy 
all the good that has been established by the sound and conservative 
element, but tries to do all in his power to help along the movements 
which have as their purpose the betterment of the masses." 

He did not get much praise from the ultracapitaHsts and financial 
overlords. He said in a Texas speech that same year that Rockefeller, 
Morgan, Carnegie, Hill and Harriman were all Republicans and sup- 
ported Theodore Roosevelt- in 1904, despite the fact that Roosevelt 
was supposedly a trust buster and Alton B. Parker, a conservative. 

"There is hardly a rich man who isn't a Republican and hardly a 

[47] " 

selfish interest which does not contribute to that party's campaign 
funds/' he said. 

Attacking the Republicans for starting and stopping in trust prose- 
cutions, Garner continued to prod for full investigations of the beef 
and steel trusts. Both were of special interest to his district. The beef 
trust gouged his cattle raisers and the high steel prices retarded badly 
needed rail construction in his district. 

Back in Washington, for his second term, he had demanded that 
the Department of Justice "seek by all honorable means the disin- 
tegration of the so-called beef trust by which competition is stifled in 
the purchase of the cattle of our prairies. I demand of the party in 
power the enforcement of the anti-trust laws against what is known 
as a combine, to control in selfish interest the cattle market of the 
West and South." 

On May 31, 1906, he introduced a resolution authorizing the Secre- 
tary of Commerce and Labor to make an investigation of the costs of 
iron and steel. 

Mostly he preached economy. The cost of government was less than 
half a billion yearly but Garner thought that too much. The Theodore 
Roosevelt administration was running a deficit and Garner taunted 
it for that. 

If he was vulnerable, his weakness on governmental economy was 
on transportation. He was for encouragement of any kind of trans- 
portation, good roads, railways and waterways. His Congressional 
district was larger in square miles than the combined areas of New 
Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware. 
It was a new country, largely isolated. It had no hard roads, no water 
transportation, inadequate railroads. 

Transportation was so inadequate in his district that Garner found 
it difficult to get over it. Another reason for his intense interest in 
transportation was that as a youth he had lived in a country where 
covered wagon and stagecoach were the fastest modes of transportation 
and he knew all the inconveniences of being shut off from the world. 

He introduced a bill for an appropriation of $10,000,000 for federal 
aid a decade before such assistance was extended, and said in remarks 
at the time: 

"Let me make a prediction: The time is coming when the federal 
Treasury will help build good roads/' 


He got some federal buildings for his district. Of this he said: 

"Where it is economically justified the government ought to own 
the plant it operates in. Under these circumstances when the federal 
government owns a nice building in a community it is putting its 
best foot forward there. But I oppose $50,000 buildings in places where 
rent on suitable quarters would be less than the interest on the invest- 
ment. I opposed such expenditures even in my own district." 

He made a speech on transportation in Houston on April 5, 190% 
after the passage of the Hepburn Act. The new law he -explained had 
as its purpose assurance against unreasonable freight rates. 

"But the best regulation of all is water competition," he said. "When- 
ever there is water competition there are cheap freight rates. I am 
the friend of the railroads and want to see them so thread this South- 
west country that no farmer will have to haul his product more than 
fifteen miles, and no cowman will have to drive his herd more than 
the same distance. Keep down monopoly, improve your waterways, 
encourage the building of railroads and competition will help to solve 
the rate problem." 

Early in his career an incident occurred which he felt gave him for 
a time an unjust reputation as a spendthrift. 

He was quoted as having said: 

"Every time one of those Yankees gets a hog, I want at least to get 
a ham for my district." 

Of all the misquotations chalked up against him, Garner thinks that 
is the worst. 

"Of course, I never sought an appropriation on any such ground," 
he said. "I never asked a dime of government expenditure that I did 
not have figures to justify on economic grounds. The way this came 
about is that I was making a speech at Pleasanton, in Atascosa County. 
I was attempting to illustrate the futility of economy efforts if the 
people looked upon the United States Treasury as a grab bag. I said: 
Too often the disposition of the people is this: If a man from Massa- 
chusetts gets a hog in an appropriation bill, they expect a man from 
Texas will at least try to get a ham/ 

"I was surprised when a newspaper report had me advocating 
Treasury raiding when I was talking of protecting the Treasury. Per- 
haps I did not make a very strong effort to correct the misquotation. 


I know of no case where a correction ever caught up with an erroneous 
statement. I have always been content to let my voting record speak for 

Garner voted against a bill increasing salaries of Senators and Repre- 
sentatives to $7,500 a year, Mrs. Garner remained as his secretary and 
the extra $100 per month she earned in that capacity came in handy. 

At the end of his second term in Congress, Garner and his wife 
moved from their boarding house to the Burlington Hotel where they 
kept house in an apartment. 

He played poker less and less frequently and quit the late games 

"The last time I stayed late at all, I stayed all night," he said. "When 
I got home Mrs. Garner was just getting up and starting breakfast. I 
was ashamed of myself. Uncle Joe was seventy-three and should have 
known better. I was forty and I knew better." 

From then on. Garner was a nine-o'clock man in all things, with 
rare exceptions. 

But by now Garner was beginning to be thought of, both in Wash- 
ington and Texas, as a Congressional fixture. "You can't get away 
from Garner," a contemporary observer wrote. "When he throws his 
arm around your shoulder and gets confidential, you are as helpless 
as if you were under a hypnotic spell. He has a personality you cannot 
resist. He could sell you a gold brick and make you rejoice in the 
investment. There is a subtle and potent charm in the combination of 
a homely body and a comely character. He is a virile man, one of com- 
manding force to whom good looks could be of no service whatever." 

As far as his own party was concerned he was entrenched in his 
district. When he went home during a recess, the McAllen Monitor 
reported : 

"John Garner is home from Washington but not for the purpose of 
fixing up any gaps in his political fences, for' there isn't room for a 
mouse to crawl through, but to take a vacation." 

Former Congressman Private John Allen of Mississippi visited the 
cloakrooms, told of a trip to Garner's district and "uncontrovertible 
proof that Garner was the best Congressman ever elected in Texas." 

"I was down in southwest Texas," said Allen, "and I had a chance 
to investigate Garner. I visited a rancher and spent the night. After 


supper my host and his wife and I sat far a while and talked crops, 
singing schools and politics. 

" 'By the way/ I asked, just as if I didn't know, 'who is your Con- 
gressman?' 'John Garner/ said the rancher, before his wife could say it. 

"I pondered for a minute, and then asked, 'Well, who did you have 
before Garner?' 

"The rancher looked at his wife, and she returned the stare. Both 
seemed to reflect a moment, and then said, almost in unison, 4 We 
never had any before him.' " 



Garner Moves Up 

THE financial panic of 1907 marked the emergence of Repre- 
sentative Garner from the narrow role of a local Representa- 
tive into the part of a national legislator. He was to participate 
in some manner in nearly every one of a sequence of great events 
beginning then and crowding one another in the years to come. It was 
in a small way at first but he was gradually to pick up speed, weight 
and prominence in public affairs and in the public consciousness. 

To some parts of the country the depression which followed the 
financial crash in the middle of Theodore Roosevelt's second term was 
minor, just one of a series of the "boom and bust" episodes of American 
history. But in the newer sections of the country, where there had 
usually been no boom, such crises were all "busts." This one hit Texas 
hard. Like all new areas it felt itself a victim of dislocated capital. 
Money for various reasons gravitated to Eastern banks. The Western 
people were doing business or trying to under difficult circum- 
stances. There was inadequate venture capital. When a rancher sold 
his cattle or crops, the money headed East. When the rancher wanted 
to borrow so as to buy seed, stock or capital equipment, he had to 
seek funds or his local bank did from the big financial houses in 
New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. 

Garner was acutely aware of the repercussions of financial panics 
and succeeding depressions. The one of 1837 had swept away the for- 
tunes of the Garners and Walpoles in Tennessee. The one of 1873 
had brought harder times to the South trying to get along under 
reconstruction and the one of 1893 had hit him just as he was strug- 
gling to get started at Uvalde. 
Garner came back from Texas in the autumn of 1907 hopping rnad 


at what he believed was favoritism to New York in general and Wall 
Street gamblers in particular because of government aid extended 
mainly to that banking center in the panic. 

In a hard-hitting statement the erstwhile friendly Texas Congress- 
man called on Secretary of the Treasury Cortelyou for an explanation 
why "quick aid was extended to stock gamblers in New York while 
the rest of the country was left without a semblance of assistance." 

Garner demanded to know the character of collateral upon which 
Secretary Cortelyou deposited government funds in the New York 

"In my opinion/' said Garner, "the Secretary of the Treasury has 
been allowing these New York bankers to have money on securities 
which they could not sell in the market. Congress and the people have 
a right to know if this is true. Conditions in my state where banks 
are finding it difficult to get currency for their daily needs, though 
their vaults are filled with gilt-edged securities, are duplicated in other 

"New York banks have all the money now. They borrowed between 
ten and fifteen million dollars from Texas banks not long ago at 6 per 
cent. Now when the Texas banks want money to aid in the moving of 
crops, the New York banks tell them that they can get it by paying 
20, 30 or 50 per cent. 

"It is hackneyed to cuss Wall Street, but no fair-minded man can 
help resenting conduct which is directly responsible for the stringency 
which is being experienced in other sections of the country." 

Garner held long sessions with Representatives Carter Glass and 
Arsene Pujo on the setting up of some sort of system to prevent the 
concentration of money in New York City. Most of his conversations 
were with Glass. 

From the time they came to Congress, Glass and Garner had been 
very friendly. Their names were next to one another on the House 
roll call and they were about that close on other things. Their seats 
were also close together. If Garner thought his first assignment on the 
Committee on Railways and Canals was bad, Glass did not even do 
that well. He was put on the Committee on Pacific Railways. Phys- 
ically there was a resemblance. They weighed about the same and 
there was little difference in height. Glass had red hair, and Garner 


reddish sandy hair. Neither had had very good school advantages and 
both were largely self-taught. They were constant companions in seats 
along the first-base line at Washington baseball games. Both had 
been baseball players when Abner Doubleday's national pastime was 
very young. 

The baseball games which Gamer and Glass saw were not very good. 
Washington apparently had been put in the newly formed American 
League so it would be assured of a permanent cellar tenant. 

"It was as spavined a bunch of athletes as were ever held together by 
arnica and baling wire/' Garner said. "We went out expecting them 
to get beat and they seldom disappointed us. It was before the days 
when the great pitcher Walter Johnson made them respectable. We 
felt right at home. Washington was last in the American League and 
Carter and I were on the bottom in the American Congress. Every 
time they got beat it reminded us of how we got roughhoused on the 
most recent roll call." 

John Sharp Williams liked the bantam-sized newcomers from Vir- 
ginia and Texas and set out to find better committee assignments for 
them. Of the available vacancies Glass preferred the Foreign Affairs 
and Garner wanted Banking and Currency. But in the juggling each 
got what the other wanted. Representative Henry D. Flood of Vir- 
ginia, who had two years seniority over Glass, also wanted the Foreign 
Affairs Committee place, and two Virginians could not be put on the 
committee. Glass, a newspaperman, found himself plunged into the 
tricky waters of high finance. Garner, a cow-country banker and 
lawyer, was tossed into the study of international diplomacy. 

Up to the panic of 1907, if the pages of the Congressional Record 
were the criterion, Garner and Glass were about the most inactive 
members of Congress. Neither had made a formal speech on the floor 
of the House of Representatives. Glass, despite his original distaste 
for his assignment, plunged into a study of banking and currency. By 
1907 he had a fair knowledge of his subject but felt that he was without 
much influence in his party or in Congress. 

Garner had remedial legislation of his own in mind but it was 
evident to both him and Glass that no Democrat was going to author 
successful currency legislation. From a party standpoint the Demo- 
crats were worse off than when they began their Congressional service. 


In 1902, Roosevelt had not been popular and the Congressional election 
had been so close that a change of sixteen votes would have defeated 
Cannon and elected Williams as Speaker. However, by 1904, T. R. 
was a public idol and with his whopping victory over Alton B. Parker, 
the Republicans rose to a majority of 104 votes in the House. This 
was cut down to 58 in 1906,, and this was the majority at the time o 
the financial crash. 

Glass told Garner the Republicans would be forced to enact some 
sort of banking and currency legislation. But it would be the handi- 
work of Republican Chairman Edward B. Vreeland of his committee 
and of Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island. 

Garner took the plaint of his farmer and ranchman constituents to 
Vreeland;, John W. Weeks of Massachusetts, Henry McMorran of 
Michigan and other Republican wheelhorses, but got little encour- 

When the House convened in December, Garner laid on the Speak- 
er's desk the first major bill of his Congressional career. The Garner 
bill proposed a new form of legal tender to be called "United States 
Currency Notes" and provided for their printing in the amount of 

He claimed that his bill would give the currency supply o the 
country an automatic elasticity and at the same time, he said, remedy 
the much criticized provisions of the law which gave national banks 
a great advantage over other financial institutions and individuals. 

"The proposal," said Garner, "would amend the law so as to enable 
an individual, or association of individuals, to deposit with the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury United States bonds and receive therefor a special 
currency to be designated 'United States Currency Notes/ just as 
national banks are permitted to deposit such securities and Issue bank 
notes for them." 

On currency backed by government bonds, Garner proposed an 
annual tax of 5 per cent and on currency backed by state, county or 
municipal bonds he proposed an interest rate of 7 per cent. The heavy 
tax was for the purpose of driving the currency out of circulation 
when the stringency passed. 

The Republican oligarchy, after some perfunctory examination, put 
the Garner bill away in its most remote pigeonhole. Garner offered 


amendments from the floor., during the House consideration of the 
Vreeland bill, but Chairman Vreeland and his steam roller flattened 
them. The Aldrich-Vreeland bill, passed in May 1908, in the opinion of 
both Garner and Glass kept money control in the East where it had 
always been. They would, as it turned out, have to wait eight more 
years for the sort of financial setup they wanted. 

Garner's vehement attacks on Secretary Cortelyou may have some- 
what chilled the amicable relations which existed between the Uvaldian 
and the White House. However, he still had easier access to Roosevelt 
than any other member of the Texas Congressional delegation. 

In January he went to the White House on some sort of business. 
Roosevelt's anti-race suicide campaign was at its height. In order to 
break the ice Garner took along with him a photograph of the family 
of W. T. Bright, an Atascosa County constituent. There were fourteen 
children in the group. 

"You can see there is no race suicide in Texas," Garner told the 
President. "I have brought you the picture of a constituent of mine 
who is making good along the line you suggest." 

Roosevelt beamed. 

"Fine, fine/' responded the President. "What we need is more fam- 
ilies like Mr. Bright's. We need more of them, Mr. Garner. Mr. Bright 
is raising the right sort, too, I dare say." 

"Yes," replied Garner, "I quite agree with you. It would be a great 
help to the country if we had more families like that. I forgot to tell 
you, Mr. Bright is raising them all to be good Democrats." 

"Bully, anyhow," said Roosevelt. "Texas is great from any stand- 
point but it has too many Democrats." 

Before many months Roosevelt was behind a drive to unseat Garner. 
It had been his desire to be the first Republican President to increase 
his party's Congressional foothold in the former Confederate states. 

Cecil Lyons, Republican national committeeman from Texas, con- 
vinced Roosevelt that the G.O.P. had a good chance to replace Garner. 
In 1908, for the fourth straight time,, there was a heavily financed 
Republican effort in Garner's district. 

Garner's six hundred miles of Texas-Mexico border had customs 
offices, river guards and other ingredients of a federal machine. 


When newspapermen asked Roosevelt about plans to defeat Garner, 
tie President said: 

"Well, Cecil thinks it can be done." 

Garner's opponent was Dr. T. W. Moore of Seguin, who had op- 
posed him two years before. 

^ Texas newspapers did not agree with the President and the Repub- 
lican national commiteeman on the prospect of sending Garner back 
to private life. Said the Floresville Chronicle: 

"It is said that Dr. Moore of Seguin will tackle John Garner again 
this year. If the good doctor has any practice he had better stay home 
and look after it, as our John will give him a worse drubbing this 
year than two years ago." 

Garner took no chances. He pitched his campaign on tariff, banking 
and currency reform, and anti-imperialism. 

He outlined his views in a letter to H. G. Wood of Seguin on March 
3, 1908, in which he said: 

"In my judgment the revision of the tariff is, and should be, the 
leading issue of the coming campaign. The present protective tariff 
has been the foundation of the great monopolies that have grown up 
in this country. 

"The closer you keep your government to the people the better laws 
you will have. We need but few additional laws. What is needed is 
better administration of the laws we have now. I am unalterably op- 
posed to further encroachments by the federal government upon the 
legislative field wherein the state can give all necessary relief. 

"You will remember that in the campaigns of 1902-04-06, 1 contended 
that it was not only unconstitutional and un-American, but disastrous 
from a business standpoint, to continue our colonial policy by retaining 
the Philippines. I still hold to these views. You will note that the 
Philippines have already cost us more than $600,000,000 and the lives 
of many soldiers without a dollar in return or prospects of a change 
for the better. 

"No law-created person should have an advantage over any God- 
created person, therefore I am opposed to bank-issued currency. 

"I do not believe in war except in behalf of liberty, or in defense of 
a nation's honor, and would divert, if I could, some of the millions now 
being used in great preparations for war to the better and more peace- 


able purpose of improving our waterways and other internal develop- 
ments that are being neglected upon the pretense that we have no 

"The money needlessly spent in maintaining our colonial policy in 
the Philippines would have deepened every harbor and improved every 
river in the United States. 

"I repeat that it is not so many laws we need, but an honest effort by 
honest officials to enforce them- make fewer promises but keep every 
promise made." 

In a joint debate with Dr. Moore at Sutherland Springs, Wilson 
County, on September 5, Garner advocated the enactment of the 
elastic currency bill he had introduced a few months previously, an 
income tax, declared against postal savings banks, and for the first 
time came out for the federal guarantee of bank deposits. 

Moore hotly attacked the latter proposal. 

"It is unfair to good banks," he said, "It will cause every man with 
an itching palm and small conscience to plunge into the national 
banking business. It will wreck our whole banking fabric." 

Garner replied that postal savings banks would put the government 
in the banking business and a carefully managed deposit insurance 
fund on a national basis would pay its own way, end runs on banks 
and still leave banking in private hands. 

Garner was not a delegate to the Democratic national convention at 
Denver, which nominated Bryan. However, he supported the Com- 
moner in the election, though he originally had opposed the Bryan 

He favored Senator Charles A. Culberson of Texas, then the Senate 
Democratic leader, for President and thought an ideal running mate 
for Culberson would be John Mitchell, head of the United Mine 

In a statement in which he called Culberson, "a conservative who 
is not reactionary and a progressive who is not radical," Garner asserted 
"that forty years after the Civil War, the South which is the backbone, 
thighs and sinews of the Democratic party should demand its rights 
in the party." 

In an interview in the San Antonio Express, he said : 

"It is argued that a Southern man is not available for the Presidential 


nomination. Who makes these standards o availability? It seems to 
me that the failure of the South to insist on recognition commensurate 
with the unfailing support it gives the national party is largely respon- 
sible. I have heard Senator Culberson's availability discussed so often 
and so seriously by influential Democrats that I no longer hold the 
belief I once held that the nomination of a Southern man for President 
is fantastic. 

"There is more distrust of the idea of a Southern man for President 
in the South than there is in other sections of the country. Unless the 
South does stand up for its rights, its influence in the party councils 
will become less and less until it reaches nil." 

Generally, Garner was of the same views as Bryan, but he was 
opposed to Bryan's proposal for government ownership of railroads 
and to the sound money side of the monetary question. 

"Most of the things that made Theodore Roosevelt popular were 
in the Bryan platforms," he said. 

Garner was re-elected to his fourth term on the day Bryan went 
down before Taft for his third straight defeat. 

In a way, Garner regretted seeing T. R. go- from the White House. 
They had got along excellently for men of opposite political faiths and, 
although the same kind of a White House welcome would extend over 
into the Taft administration, Garner would miss the unpredictable, 
hard-hitting Rough Rider. He said of T. R.: 

"He was dramatic, spectacular, explosive, hasty and impulsive. Per- 
haps he was the most theatrical of all our Presidents. The Republican 
leaders in Congress never knew what he was going to do next. But he 
was a dexterous politician and had a great hold on the public imagina- 
tion. My personal relations with him were pleasant." 

Roosevelt went out on March 4, and Taft came in on the worst 
inauguration day in history. Three inches of rain fell on the previous 
day. On inauguration day there was a heavy fall of wind-driven, soggy 
snow. The Presidential oath was administered inside of the Senate 
Chamber for the first time since the blizzardy day of Andrew Jackson's 
second administration. 

The inside ceremonies stirred to disappointed wrath thousands of 
men and women who had dared the howling snow storm and gathered 
around the outdoor stand at the east door of the Capitol. On that day 


Champ Clark of Missouri, successor to John Sharp Williams as minor- 
ity leader, called Garner to his office and told him he wanted to school 
him for a place of command in the House leadership. His first recog- 
nition was as assistant Whip. 

Garner by now had become recognized as one of the best-informed 
men in the House, had a reputation for level-headedness and resource- 
fulness. His Congressional district was making less demands on him 
and he began to tread the long path to party leadership in Congress. 
There had been many changes in the Democratic House membership 
in the six years Garner had been a member. Some of the older men 
had dropped out and others had gone to the Senate. 

There was a new crop of promising young Democrats, among them 
James M. Cox of Ohio, afterward to be a Democratic Presidential 
nominee; Cordell Hull, Finis J. Garrett and Joseph W. Byrns of 
Tennessee; James W. Collier of Mississippi; Richmond P. Hobson of 
Alabama and A. Mitchell Palmer of Pennsylvania. The Republicans 
had matched them with such recruits as Frank O. Lowden and Martin 
Madden of Illinois; John W. Weeks of Massachusetts; J. Hampton 
Moore of Pennsylvania and Julius Kahn of California. 

It was to be a memorable session with tariff revision and an attack 
on Speaker Cannon and the House rules headlining it. The Repub- 
licans had a working majority of forty-seven, but there was insurgency 
in the ranks. Clark, a bold and audacious leader, intended to harass 
the Republicans from the opening gong. Roosevelt had been able to 
sidestep tariff revision. Taft was face to face with it. Clark's theory, 
he told Garner, was that any tariff bill the Republicans enacted would 
be unpopular with the country and might lead the way to the first 
Democratic national victory in sixteen years if properly exploited. 

Clark carried the battle to Cannon, his personal friend, on the open- 
ing day, March 15, 1909, of the special session of Congress. "Can- 
nonism," in fact, became a blazing issue between House Republicans 
and Democrats. Clark demanded a revision of the rules under which 
Uncle Joe allegedly practiced parliamentary tyranny. It was all wrong, 
said Clark, "for a Speaker to make himself bigger than the whole 390 
of us who are left." 

Garner for the first time came into debate as a top-ranking House 
member, backing Clark's arguments. 


Later in the month he was in a good-natured, humorous exchange 
with Sereno E. Payne, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee 
and majority leader. Payne told the pestiferous Texan: 

"Someday somebody is going to find out whereabouts in the sand 
and chaparral that district of yours is and is going down there and 
beat hell out of you." 

Garner, remembering that Theodore Roosevelt had fondly hoped to 
see a Republican elected in his district a few months before, replied: 

"I concede that my district is overweight geograpically and under- 
weight from a population standpoint. It has more animals than people, 
but the people who are there are mighty good people. It is one-eighth 
of the area of Texas and not difficult to find. In fact, I think a great 
leader of the Republican party found where it was last fall." 

Said the Gulf Coast Record : 

"Though he does not weigh over a hundred pounds, John Garner is 
as speedy as a paisano and as game and plucky as a javelina and we 
would not trade him off for all of Sereno Payne's 300 pounds of 

Garner's duty as Whip was to know where the votes were for any 
party measure. His first efforts in his new post were to line up votes for 
the submission of the income-tax amendment to the Constitution. So 
well did he do that when the vote was taken on July 12 not a Democrat 
voted against submission of the amendment. 

In the long-drawn-out fight on the tariff the Democrats were able 
to do little other than harass the Republicans and hope to make an 
issue for the Presidential election. The party steam roller pushed the 
G.O.P. bill to enactment. Democratic efforts to make campaign fodder 
were aided by President Taft, who went to Winona, Minnesota, and 
in a speech, called the unpopular Payne-Aldrich tariff bill "the best one 
ever passed in the history of the nation." 

The Democrats, aided and abetted by the Norris-Cooper-Murdock 
insurgents, now renewed the attacks on the House rules and Can- 
nonism. The showdown fight came in what was known as the St, 
Patrick's Day Revolt of 1910 a ninety-six-hour battle in which some of 
the controls were finally wrenched from Cannon's grasp. Garner's part 
in that caused no enmity between him and Uncle Joe however. A few 
days after the big fight, Garner heard that the Board of Army Engi- 


neers had rejected a pet project of his. For seven years Garner had 
been trying to get a deep-water port at Corpus Christi. Its rejection by 
the Army brass seemed to spell defeat. But Garner refused to accept 
it as such. 

He grabbed his hat and went down to the office of Brigadier General 
William L. Marshall, chief of engineers, A Rivers and Harbors bill was 
about to be reported by the House committee. 

It was an unseasonably hot March day and Marshall, almost as big 
as President Taft, was in his shirt sleeves and sweating. He listened 
to Garner's argument. 

Finally he got up from his chair and stood towering over him. 

"Congressman," he said, "your arguments have been cogent and 
convincing. I think you know more about it than the engineers. I will 
be sixty-four years old in June, and I am going out of the Army. Some 
of those young whippersnappers on the board haven't been paying 
much attention to me. The tradition is that a chief of engineers never 
overrules a board. But, I hereby overrule this one." 

Garner couldn't wait for military channels. He stayed until Marshall 
wrote out his ruling. He took it to Secretary of War Dickinson' and got 
his approval. He went back to the subcommittee of the Rivers and 
Harbors Committee and asked it to insert the item in the bill. Then 
he went before the full committee. Here he ran up against an inviolable 
rule. The committee could act only on printed amendments. Garner 
went to the public printer. There was, he found, another rule. Nobody 
but the Speaker could order such printing. 

Garner, without telephoning, got in a cab and went to Cannon's 
home on Vermont Avenue. Some cronies were there and Uncle Joe 
insisted that Garner play poker. He sat in the game for two hours 
while the cab waited and then told Cannon his dilemma. The Speaker 
scribbled a notation to the printer and Garner went back to the Gov- 
ernment Printing Office at midnight. 

The next day the bill was reported to the House and passed with 
the Corpus Christi item. His isolated district was on the way to a 
deep-water outlet to the world. Garner had originally introduced the 
bill on November 23, 1903, his thirty-fifth birthday. Twenty-four days 
later at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright 
made the first successful flight in an airplane. 

In World War II at the deep-water port of Corpus Christi was 


located the greatest naval air training station in the world, where 
31,000 naval fliers were trained. 

Garner had rejected a proposal to fortify Aransas Pass as an alterna- 
tive to deep water. 

"At this stage/' he said, ''improvements of waterways and water 
transportation are of more importance than guns which will soon be 
as obsolete as the Confederate cannons on court-house squares." 

Garner had only negligible opposition from the Republicans in 1910. 
His only important new platform plank was a more specific pledge of 
efforts for economy in government. 

Sessions of Congress were much shorter in those days than now. On 
alternate years Garner had from March to December in Texas. He 
continued to buy and sell land and engage in various other enterprises. 
He at no time dabbled in oil or other quick-money plans. If land 
which he purchased was not revenue producing for him he sold it to 
someone who could make it produce. 

"I imagine I signed more deeds than any man in Uvalde," he said. 

In Washington the Garners lived quietly. 

Mrs. Garner went to the neighborly teas which Mrs. Theodore 
Roosevelt, and afterward Mrs. William Howard Taft gave from time 
to time for small groups of women at the White House. 

Longworth tried to interest Garner in golf without avail. The Texan 
even turned down the walking parties which Longworth liked. Long- 
worth's marching companions became known eventually as the "States- 
man's Sunday Morning Marching Club." It took two-hour brisk walks 
through Rock Creek Park. 

"I stop at the entrance of Rock Creek Park/' Garner said. 

The stopping place was the zoo. Garner went there almost every 
Sunday. He had always been a great animal lover, 

His strenuous outdoor exercise he postponed until he got to Texas. 
Then he would spend weeks in the woods and on fishing streams. 

The slashing Democratic Congressional fight oa the Payne-Aldrich 
tariff bill, Cannonism and other issues paid off in 1910 in a turnover 
of 113 seats. Two hundred and twenty-eight Democrats and 162 Re- 
publicans were elected. A Republican House majority of 47 was trans- 
formed into a Democratic lead of 66. In the Senate the Republican 
majority was halved. 

Speaker Cannon did not stand for the empty honor of being Repub- 

lican candidate for Speaker. James R. Mann was put forward by the 
Republican caucus and was defeated by Clark, 220 to 131. The Demo- 
crats controlled one branch of Congress for the first time in sixteen 

Suave Oscar W. Underwood moved in as majority leader and 
methodically went about the business of further dividing the Repub- 
licans. The Democratic board of strategy resolved never to let up on 
the tariff issue. It had been good enough to win the House and it 
looked good enough for a winner-take-all House, Senate and Presi- 
dency in 1912. 

Garner, who had earned the friendship of Champ Clark in the fight 
to democratize the House rules, by now was majority Whip and a top 
lieutenant of the Speaker. He moved cautiously and tread on no 
Democratic toes. There were still fifty Democrats in the House who 
had been there longer than he had. In his own Texas delegation, 
Burleson, Slayden, Henry, Stephens and Burgess, all able and influ- 
ential men, had longer service. Some of them held important chair- 

Garner took up more space in the Congressional Record during the 
Sixty-Second Congress than in the four preceding. His political stature 
increased perhaps more because of his opposition to pork-barrel meas- 
ures than for any other reason. This fight to take the pork out of all 
bills he began on the day Congress opened. He objected to lump-sum 
appropriation and insisted on itemization of expenditures. 

He lashed out at boards and commissions, taking a particularly hot 
shot at the International Joint Commission as "a sinecure and sanctuary 
for lame ducks." 

He supported a proposal to abolish five regiments of cavalry on the 
grounds that the cavalry which he a few years before had vigorously 
supported was becoming outmoded as an effective Army wing. To 
protests against this from his district, he replied that on such a matter 
a lawmaker ought to use his judgment about what was best, and stand 
or fall by his decision in the subsequent election. 

Garner took a prominent part in the revision of the House rules 
under Clark, voted for statehood for Arizona and New Mexico, com- 
pleting the continental Union of forty-eight states, voted for the pro- 
posal of a Secretary of Labor in the President's Cabinet, for free tolls 

for American vessels in the Panama Canal, supported a bill for the 
making public of campaign funds and for the impeachment of Judge 
Robert W. Archibald of the Commerce Court for malfeasance in office. 

Garner was constantly on the floor during the discussion of the 
so-called pop-gun tariff bills which the Democrats sent to the White 
House only to draw vetoes from President Taft. The issue was thus 
kept constantly before the country. 

Garner supported the appropriation of $60,000 for an investigation 
of the money trust by the Pujo Committee and asserted "no $60,000 
could be better spent than in investigating the money trust." 

He was by now second ranking member of the House Foreign 
Affairs Committee, was a conferee on the Diplomatic and Consular 
appropriation bill, presided over the House as a stand-in for Clark 
during the consideration of much of the Democratic tariff legislation. 

As the 1912 primaries in Texas approached, Garner had strong sup- 
port as successor to Senator Joseph Weldon Bailey, who was retiring. 
Instead he announced for re-election to the House. 

Clark and Underwood both became candidates for President along 
with Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey; Governor Judson 
Harmon of Ohio; Governor Thomas R, Marshall and others. Garner 
supported Clark. Texas went for Wilson and the Texas delegation 
became a bulwark of strength for him at the Baltimore Democratic 
national convention. 

Garner made his last courtesy call on President Taft. The good- 
natured President said to him: 

"John, you have never asked a favor of me since I have been Presi- 
dent. I would like to do something for you." 

Garner remembered a newspaper editorial when he first ran for 
Congress which asserted that he would have so little influence that he 
would never know who was going to be appointed postmaster in his 
home town. 

"All right, Mr, President/' Garner replied. "Appoint a postmaster for 
me at Uvalde." 

Taft asked for his recommendation. Garner wrote on a slip o paper: 
"John W. White." 

President Taft sent the nomination to the Senate. It was the first 
Democratic postmaster appointment made in Texas in sixteen years. 

White was left undisturbed during changing administrations, serving 
under Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Roosevelt until he 
retired because o age after thirty years of service. 

Of Taft, Garner was to say thirty years later: 

"William Howard Taft was the perfect constitutional President of 
all my time in Washington. But he was not rated a successful President. 
I don't know whether that proves anything or not. There were other 
factors. He came along when his party was jaded from successive vic- 
tories and torn by dissension. Some men of high character and lofty 
attainments have been failures as President. Some men of mediocre 
abilities have been rated successful Presidents. He, of course, made a 
serious blunder in his praise of the Payne-Aldrich bill. Taft never 
tried to control another branch of government by patronage or other- 
wise. He never overstepped his functions. It is easy for a President to 
usurp powers. Franklin D. Roosevelt found that out." 



Wilson and the War Years 

WOODROW WILSON stood before a huge throng on 
Capitol Plaza and at one-ten, on the blustery afternoon of 
March 4, 1913, took the oath of President of the United 
States. A Democrat occupied the White House for the first time since 
Cleveland went out and McKinley came in sixteen years before on 
March 4, 1897. 

In an amazingly short address Wilson particularized the purposes 
of his administration. He eased any fears that he intended to tear the 
country apart economically with his declaration: 

"We shall restore, not destroy. We shall deal with our economic 
system as it is and as it may be modified, not as it might be if we had 
a clean sheet of paper to write on; and step by step we shall make it 
what it should be, in the spirit of those who question their wisdom 
and seek counsel and knowledge, not shallow satisfaction or the ex- 
citement of excursions whither they cannot tell. Justice and only jus- 
tice shall be our motto." 

And he ended with that never-to-be-forgotten peroration: 

"This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster, 
not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity. Men's hearts wait 
upon us; men's lives hang in the balance; men's hopes call upon us 
to say what we will do. Who shall live up to the great trust? Who 
dares fail to try? I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward- 
looking men, to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them, if 
they will but counsel and sustain me." 

Inauguration day climaxed a week of high excitement such as 
Washington, then a city of 325,000 population, had seldom witnessed. 

President Madero of Mexico had been assassinated a fortnight before 
and war with Mexico seemed imminent. The battleships Vermont, 
Nebraska and Georgia were off Vera Cruz. Pujo and the Democratic 
members of his committee had completed the "Pujo Investigation" 
and found that a "money trust" existed. To break it up Representative 
Carter Glass, who was succeeding Pujo as chairman of the Banking 
and Currency Committee, announced that legislation would be in- 
troduced providing a Federal Reserve System. 

"General" Rosalie Jones and her suffrage hikers "the Army of the 
Hudson" had reached the Capital. "General" Jones, her Pilgrim's 
cloak draped about her and staff in hand was greeted by Inez Mil- 
holland, wearing a white broadcloth Cossack's suit and long white 
kid boots. A pale blue cloak hung from Miss Milholland's shoulders, 
on the cloak a Maltese cloth demanding a "constitutional amendment 
to enfranchise the women of the United States." 

The suffrage parade of March 3 had not been given sufficient police 
protection and the marchers were subjected to disgraceful indignities. 
Governor Wilson had arrived during the excitement. The reception 
committee which greeted him, including Admiral George Dewey and 
General Nelson A. Miles, drove him to the old Shoreham Hotel by a 
little frequented route. 

It had been a week end of unusual farewells by retiring Republican 
officials. In his last Sunday as the nation's chief executive, President 
Taft had occupied the pulpit of the Unitarian Church. 

At the National Press Club, Mr. Taft had told newspapermen 
good-by in a delightful talk in which he said he would "not mope over 
the fact that he had been returned to private life by the votes of the 
people." He said: "My greatest sin is procrastination and I like to 
linger in the society of my fellow-man." 

The retiring President exemplified the plight of a President going 
out of office, especially one who had been almost continuously in 
public office since his appointment as a state Judge in Ohio, in 1887. 
He was proud of the Supreme Court, of which he had appointed six 
of the nine members. He couldn't practice law, the only thing he knew, 
because he had appointed 45 per cent of the federal judiciary: "That 
wouldn't affect matters," he said, "but you know what would happen 
if I won a case, what the man who lost it would say." But he did have 


something to do when his %o 5 ooo-a-year job ended and he was glad of 
It. He was taking a lectureship at Yale at $5,000 per year, and he re- 
ported that Charles E. Hillis, who had been his secretary at $5,000 
per year, had got a $20,000 job in New York. 

"I leave office without bitterness toward anyone," Mr. Taft said. "It 
is not worth while harboring resentments." 

To Washington the biggest sensation of all was that Wilson, who 
was to be second of the three-in-a-row golfing Presidents, had refused 
to accept honorary membership in the fashionable Chevy Chase Club. 

Taft and Wilson rode to the Capitol along a line of inaugural seats 
for which Democrats had paid as high as twenty dollars each, through 
crowds of women carrying yellow banners inscribed VOTES FOR 
WOMEN, and men wearing hatbands saying WOODY'S A JOLLY GOOD 
FELLOW. High-hatted and frock-coated men were everywhere. 

On the stand where Wilson was to take the oath from Chief Justice 
White was old Henry Gassaway Davis of West Virginia, Parker's 
Vice-Presidential running mate in 1904, and now ninety years old; Am- 
bassadors Bryce of England and Jusserand of France; Senator Kaute 
Nelson, a bearded Viking from Minnesota and Senator John W. Kern 
of Indiana, Bryan's 1908 Vice-Presidential ticket companion, wearing a 
white vest and a white satin four-in-hand tie. 

Congress, snarled in a filibuster, had remained in session all day 
Sunday and Monday, and was still knotted at noon inauguration day 
when President Taft and Governor Wilson arrived at the Capitol for 
the inaugural ceremonies. 

Two Taft vetoes were responsible in part for the Congressional 
tie-up. He had refused his signature to the Webb-Kenyon bill, pro- 
hibiting the shipment of liquor Into dry territory. He also tossed back 
to Congress a bill exempting labor unions and farmers* alliances from 
prosecution under the Sherman anti-trust law and sent with it a 
message saying: "This provision is class legislation of the most vicious 


Major General Leonard Wood, Chief of Staff of the Army, saw to 
it that no such turbulent scenes as took place on the March 3 suffrage 
parade would occur as the nation changed Presidents. Wood in Army 
cape and on a skittish horse kept everything in order. Wilson rode 


from the Shoreham Hotel to the White House between a double row 
of students from the University of Virginia. 

As Wilson finished his inaugural address, jubilant Democrats 
swarmed onto Pennsylvania Avenue, and with governors and their 
uniformed staffs. Union and Confederate veterans on foot, military 
organizations and marching clubs, made up the longest, most colorful 
inaugural parade that had ever before or has since gone up that his- 
toric parade route. For nine hours they marched, in daylight past the 
historic eyesores of lower Pennsylvania Avenue, and then the last of 
them came along under festoons of special red, white and blue lights. 

President Wilson had as his escort the Essex Cavalry Troop. The 
Essex uniform was a dark blue coat with yellow trimmings; light 
blue trousers with a two-inch stripe down the side. Each of the young 
men in the troop owned his own horse, a thoroughbred. 

The Vice-President had as his escort the Black Horse Cavalry from 
Culver, Indiana, each of the sixty troopers on a coal-black horse with 
tan saddle and gray blanket, bearing the Culver monogram in yellow 
leather. The Culver uniforms were pearl gray with broad white cross 
belts and rope trimmings. 

Then came the cadets from West Point and the midshipmen from 
Annapolis, the cadets in gray uniforms, cross belts and tall caps, the 
midshipmen in black raincoats and caps, white belts and white 

The dressy Richmond Blues came in dark blue coats and white em- 
broidered trimmings, shakos, silver epaulets and broad ermine-fringed 
blue capes. There was a Zouave Company from Georgia. 

Seven special trains had brought Charles F. Murphy and 1,200 Tam- 
many Braves from New York. The Grand Sachem, the thirteen Tam- 
many Sachems and McCooey, with his Brooklyn contingent, waited to 
get into the parade. Tammany had taken verbal punishment at Balti- 
more in the preceding Democratic national convention and it was to 
take physical punishment here. From one o'clock until five o'clock in 
the afternoon, it had stood in close rank near a lumberyard at North 
Capitol and B Street. 

Murphy had gone up and down the line cheering his Braves. The 
great Tom Foley and his lo^er East Side Braves were uncomfortable 


in their shiny headgear. Assemblyman Al Smith had laid aside his 
brown derby for a topper. 

The buffalo nickel was just being minted. The Tammany contin- 
gent had pocketfuls o them and tossed them to urchins who admired 
their sartorial elegance. 

"The," cracked the florid Murphy, to The McManus, "tell the boys 
to put their wallets in their inside pockets. Some of them look as if 
their hips were dislocated." 

And as dusk was gathering Murphy's men led by Chief Hollow 
Horn Bear and seventy other real Indian chiefs in feathered regalia 
and war paint came into line at the head of the civic organizations. It 
was dark when the 1,200 Braves, every one of them with a silk hat 
and gray gloves, swung around the Treasury Building and marched by 
the new President, their hats off and placed dramatically over their 

Next day most of the marchers seemed to have remained in Wash- 
ington looking for jobs. 

The Republican split had caused one of the largest Congressional 
membership turnovers in history. An audit showed 290 Democrats, 
127 Republicans and 18 members of minor parties in the House. The 
Senate stood 51 Democrats, 44 Republicans and one member of a 
minor party. 

Republicans from hitherto impregnable G.O.P. territory had been 
replaced by Democrats. There had also been much shifting among the 
Democrats. Sulzer had gone out to be Governor of New York; James 
M. Cox to be Governor of Ohio. Ollie James., who had come to Con- 
gress with Garner, was sworn in as Senator from Kentucky, but did 
not take his seat. The chair at his desk was too small and he went to 
a settee in the back of the Senate Chamber. 

Wilson's Cabinet selections flattered the vanity of the House. Three 
of them came from the House, none from the Senate. William B. 
Wilson of Pennsylvania was to occupy the newly created post of Secre- 
tary of Labor, which Garner had advocated in his first campaign tea 
years before. Magenta-bearded William C. Redfield of New York 
became Secretary of Commerce and Albert Sidney Burleson of Texas 
took his never missing umbrella and his penchant for getting into 
trouble and moved up Pennsylvania Avenue, to be Postmaster General. 

Garner's two closest friends on the Republican side were leaving. 
Uncle Joe Cannon, whose clean-shaven upper lip, stubby white beard, 
always present cigar and husky voice were Capitol fixtures, had been 
engulfed by the Democratic tide and at seventy-seven was going home 
to Danville, Illinois. Defeat also had overtaken Nick Longworth in 

"Nick," said Gamer, "had father-in-law trouble." 

Theodore Roosevelt had enough popularity in Cincinnati so that 
he cut into native son William Howard Taft, and gave Longworth's 
district to Wilson and to the Democratic Congressional candidate. 

Wilson's young men took over the executive offices the next day. 
Garner called my attention to the youth of the Administration and 
said he doubted if there had ever been one so balanced in age. Bryan, 
his Secretary of State, was only fifty-two; Redfield, the oldest Cabinet 
member was fifty-four; Houston, the youngest, was forty-seven; Mc- 
Reynolds and Daniels were just fifty. And because William B. Wilson, 
McAdoo, Garrison, Burleson and Lane were all forty-nine, it got its 
reputation as a "Cabinet of 49ers." President Wilson was fifty-seven. 
The oldest man connected with the Administration was Vice-President 
Marshall, who was fifty-nine. 

Garner was forty-four now. Instead of the 123 pounds he weighed 
when he came to Congress ten years before, he now weighed 180, was 
hard muscled and in perfect health. And, he was, he told me, looking 
for a job. 

The job he wanted was a place on the Ways and Means Committee. 
The Ways and Means Committee is the fiscal committee of the House 
and writes tariff and tax bills. Prior to the depression which began in 
1929, tariff and taxes were the principal points of the division between 
the two parties and men familiar with these two subjects became the 
House leaders. 

Ways and Means Committee members also choose, subject to House 
ratification, members of the other standing committees. Garner wanted 
a part in the writing of the forthcoming Underwood Tariff bill and 
the first income-tax measure, but I am sure he wanted a beachhead to 
work toward the Speakership some time in the future. Charnp Clark 
was, of course, certain to remain Speaker as long as he wished and as 
long as the Democrats stayed in power. Majority Leader Underwood 


ranked next highest to Clark in power. The other two of the four 
most influential were Claude Kitchin, a handsome six-foot 225-pound 
North Carolinian, and Garner. 

House leaders had other plans than placing Garner on its fiscal 
committee, however. There were men who for one reason or another 
they wished to reward with places on this committee. Garner was 
offered instead the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee. 
To most members of Congress it would have been an enticing offer. 
Garner would have been the youngest major committee chairman in 
Congress, with the most elaborate committee quarters. Andif he 
had been interested in social lifeit is the social committee of Con- 
gress. He had been on the committee for eight years, attended its ses- 
sions faithfully and had risen to the ranking Democratic place on it. 
But he thought of its chairmanship in terms of cocktails and canapes, 
both of which he regarded as works of the devil. 

Garner rejected the offer. He told the House slatemakers: 

"I don't want the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee. 
I want to go on a committee which* deals with domestic affairs, affect- 
ing the American people." 

He had to fight not only the House leadership for the place, but 
also a newspaper campaign against him, conducted by the Washing- 
ton Times. The newspaper was owned by Frank A. Munsey and had 
been an organ of the Bull Moose party in the 1912 campaign. Munsey 
said Garner owned more goats than any man in the world and, there- 
fore, would have a personal interest in the legislation and "is anxious 
to confer some incidental protection to the sugar, cattle, hide and other 
interests of his state." Actually, Garner owned no goats. Privately, he 
said: "Munsey is for the lowest possible duty on raw materials and 
for the highest possible duty on manufactured goods and that is the 
reason for his opposition to me." Publicly, he made no statement. The 
friends he had made in Congress over the years stood him in good stead. 
Out of the 266 votes in the Democratic caucus he polled 209 and went 
on the Ways and Means Committee. But the charges Munsey had 
made against him were destined later to add to the goat literature o 
the nation. 

Garner favored every one of the legislative proposals outlined by 
Wilson in his inaugural address. The "new freedom" program suited 


Garner in its entirety. The things Wilson said about tariff revision 
Garner had said in his own campaigns. In arguing for the banking 
and currency reform, which was to lead to the Federal Reserve System, 
Wilson had used almost word for word the argument used by Garner 
in urging a currency measure of his own six years before. Garner had 
also offered and had rejected an amendment to the Aldrich-Vreeland 
bill embracing the farm-credit proposals made by Wilson in his in- 
augural address and he agreed with the Wilson anti-trust and labor 
pronouncements. In spite of these things it soon began to look to 
Garner as if, with his own party in full power for the first time in his 
Congressional service, he was destined to have less influence with the 
executive branch of government than when Roosevelt and Taft were 
in the White House. He had no part in the honeymoon of the early 
Wilson days. 

Garner had more than the usual patronage trouble. He was devoted 
to and favored the nomination of Speaker Clark for President, but 
had enthusiastically lined up for Wilson after the party decision. But 
some of the Texans who had stood by Wilson on all the forty-six 
ballots at the Baltimore Democratic national convention, insisted 
that Garner be denied patronage in his district. They apparently had 
the ear of Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo and also Secretary of 
State Bryan. 

"I've got at least three applications for every post office or other job 
in my district and each applicant has at least forty friends," Garner 
told me. "They are making life miserable for me. I don't know 
whether my recommendations are going to be followed or not." 

The situation became intolerable to him. Garner was the House 
Whip charged with bringing in the votes for Administration legisla- 
tion. He presided over the House most of the time when it was in 
Committee of the Whole considering legislation. He was helping to 
frame legislation carrying out the party platform on tariff and tax 
matters. He was bearing a heavy part of the Administration burden 
in the House, but was being ignored by the Administration. 

Garner went to the White House and bluntly demanded a show- 
down o'n patronage. If he was going t6 dispense jobs in his district he 
wanted to know it and if he was not going to, he wanted to know it. 
He got no such good-natured receptions as he customarily got when 


he had called to discuss matters with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt 
and Taft. 

"I got the worst dressing down from Wilson I ever got from any- 
one," Garner said. He had an even stormier session with McAdoo, 
but with the Cabinet member he gave as good as he got. 

Garner left his warm session with Wilsoa uncertain of whether his 
relations with the White House had been permanently impaired. 

A few days later he went to a hospital for a minor operation. When 
Wilson heard of it he sent a vase of flowers and a note wishing him a 
speedy recovery. 

It soon became evident that Garner intended to watch expenditures 
just as closely as he had when his party was in the minority. 

On April 21, 1913, Garner told the House that he had insisted on 
economy during Republican administrations and intended to do so 
under a Democratic one. 

A deficiency appropriation bill was under consideration and con- 
tained an item of expenses for a trip by Senators and Representatives 
to St. Louis to dedicate the Jefferson Memorial. 

Garner inquired of Representative J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama: 

"How does the gentleman account for the fact that it takes $350 
for each individual to go to St. Louis, stay one day and return?" 

Heflin replied by paying a stirring tribute to Thomas Jefferson as 
the father of American democracy. He said he had not had a chance 
to check the reasons for the expenditure but that he was sure the 
House would have every confidence in the members who had made 
the check. Garner rejoined: 

"I have no confidence in anybody who figures it will cost $350 for 
a man to go to St. Louis for a day." 

He soon pitched into battle with powerful colleagues of the Ways 
and Means Committee oa another issue. Garner insisted on graduated 
income-tax rates such as he had proposed in a bill which he introduced 
in 19051 Chairman Oscar W. Underwood of Alabama, A. Mitchell 
Palmer of Pennsylvania, Francis Burton Harrison of New York and 
other members of the committee insisted on a flat rate to apply for all 
Garner's capacity-to-pay plan won and the scale of rates ran from i to 
6 per cent. The income-tax bill, which bore Garner's handiwork in 


1913, yielded only $71,382,000 the first year. There were only 357,588 
individual and 316,908 corporation returns. 

In the first six months of the Wilson administration, Garner made 
what was for him a record in- legislation in which his personal spon- 
sorship was concerned. He submitted, in a bill and an amendment, 
what might be called a Garner program for progressive farm legisla- 

The bill provided for a bureau of marketing in the Department of 
Agriculture. Its purpose was to furnish information to farmers on 
markets for fruits and vegetables. Garner said that this was as much a 
function of the government as the furnishing of weather reports, but 
the proposal met a barrage of newspaper criticism. 

The comment of the New York Sun was typical: 

"Under triumphant bureaucracy," the Sun said in an editorial, "there 
can't be too many bureaus. No doubt a market bureau is inevitable. 
Indeed, some of us foresee the day when the food of every man, 
woman and child out of arms in these United States will be prescribed, 
weighed, measured, analyzed, cooked and fed into the individual 
mouth by the placemen of the paternal government. Of course, the 
bill has penalties. 

"Oh, well, as government of the bureau, for the bureau and by the 
bureau moves grandly on, about everyone who isn't in office will be 
in jail." 

That bill was Garner's one contribution toward setting up a bureau. 
The Bureau of Markets was established. 

His other legislative offering of the session was an amendment to 
the Glass Federal Reserve bill providing loans to farmers in which 
wheat, corn and cotton would be accepted as collateral. Garner had 
offered such an amendment when the Aldrich-Vreeland bill was being 
considered and it got short shrift. 

In offering the proposal again Garner said the purpose was "to pro- 
vide a rural credit system enabling a farmer to market his crop under 
conditions not now possible." He pointed out that the cotton farmer 
could borrow money on his cotton warehouse receipts, would be able 
to meet his pressing obligations soon after his cotton was out of the 
gin, thus being in a position where he could obtain the highest market 
price for his staple, instead of being forced to dump it on a glutted 
market every autumn when prices were down, 


Obstacles thrown in the way of enactment of the banking and cur- 
rency legislation (the Federal Reserve Act) irked Gamer. 

He issued a statement saying: 

"Ninety per cent of the people of this country demand the passage o 
legislation reforming the currency system. If we are unable to legis- 
late in answer to the people's demands we must confess our inability 
to run the government. There are four kinds of people opposing the 
currency bill, to wit: (i) Those who don't want the law to pass be- 
cause under the present laws they have opportunity to disturb condi- 
tions and cause panics; (2) Those persons opposed to the findings of 
the bill and the legislation proposed; (3) Those men who are opposed 
to the Administration and naturally fight anything the Democrats 
propose; (4) The men who are opposing the bill because of the per- 
sonal advertising such opposition gives them." 

When the bill was brought in by Carter Glass for floor considera- 
tion, Garner occupied the chair. When he ha4 gaveled the bill through 
In its final form, Garner went down to the floor and warmly clasped 
the hand of Glass. A dream both of them had had since the financial 
panic of 1907 had come true. 

The Democratic House moved on to the consideration of the Under- 
wood Tariff bill, Republicans stubbornly fighting it paragraph by 
paragraph. The feature that attracted most attention in it was the wool 
schedule just as it had been Schedule K (the wool schedule) on which 
the spotlight was turned in the Payne-Aldrich tariff. 

In all tariff legislation previous to the Underwood bill, goat hair 
had been classed with wool. But in the Democratic measure wool was 
placed on the free list, while hair of the goat was retained on the 
dutiable list at 10 per cent ad valorem. The ample-girthed Sereno E. 
Payne arose in the House for one of the forensic efforts of his life. He 
told the House "this bill taxes mohair while exposing shorn sheep to 
the boreal blasts of free trade' because Garner had got in his handi- 

"There are about 3,000,000 goats in the United States of which about 
2 ?999?999 are in Texas/' said Payne, by way of emphasis, although 
actually there were Angoras in every state in the Union. 

The Garner goat had been reviled in prose. It was to be immortalized 
in epic doggerel. Before a packed House, the erudite Representative 


J. Hampton Moore of Pennsylvania arose and recited with poetic 
fervor, the bombastic verse of his composition: 

Of all the creatures in the land, 
Of pedigrees supremely grand, 
There's none that do respect command 
Garners goat of Texas. 

The modest sheep may browse around 
From Maine way to Puget Sound 
But they don't count a cent a pound 
With Garner s goat of Texas. 

The noble steer may be of use 
If freed from tyrant trust abuse; 
But even that would be the deuce 
To Garner's goat of Texas. 

If you want wool, the wool is fair; 
If you want hair, the wool is hair; 
If you want meat, the meat is there! 
That's Garner's goat of Texas. 

So while you %icJ^ the wool off sheep, 
And beef and mutton ma\e so cheap, 
Protective tariff now will J^eep 
The Garner goat of Texas. 

Browse on, thou mild-eyed ruminant 
Thou are the casual nexus 
That binds protection to free trade 
Thou Garner goat of Texas. 

Oh, wondrous breed of Lone Star State, 
Premier of wool and hair, thy rate 
Of 10 per cent is truly great 
Thou Garner goat of Texas. 


As the laughter died down after what was admittedly the best piece 
of goat poetry ever heard in the House of Representatives, Garner 
went to the cloakroom to prepare his reply. He had never attempted 
verse making. He could not answer verse with prose. He must answer 
in kind. He returned in a few minutes and obtained recognition from 
Speaker Clark. His speech in no way resembled Webster's reply to 
Hayne. It was, in fact, perhaps the shortest speech ever made in the 
House. In full it was: 

"Mr. Speaker: 

Hampie Moore is a hell of a poet 
He don't know a sheep from a goat." 

Garner, in fact, had voted for a tariff on wool during committee 
consideration. His position was that as manufactured woolen articles 
carried a duty the raw material also should. He had taken this con- 
sistent stand in his six Congressional races. The committee voted him 
down on wool. A principal reason for the committee going along 
with him on the mohair levy was that most of the mohair that had 
come into the United States originated in the Transvaal section of 
South Africa and in Turkey. These countries had an absolute pro- 
hibition against the exportation to the United States of Angora goats. 
Before the complete bar to shipments from Transvaal was inaugurated, 
an export tax of $500 per head was exacted. 

After losing in committee on wool, Garner voted with his party 
for the passage of the bill, because there had been a reduction of as 
high as 180 per cent ad valorem on some kinds of wool garments and 
substantial reduction on all woolen goods. 

Newspapermen thankful to Garner for providing a reason for the 
light interlude of Moore and Garner verse in an otherwise dull tariff 
debate held a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol in which they pre- 
sented him with a flag of "The Triumphant Goat" and invested him 
with the 'title "Patron Saint of Angora." 

Garner went through the grilling eight months of the special session 
of Congress, with its tarifi, currency and other legislation, with little 
recognition from the White House. Once or twice he heard that Pres- 
ident Wilson had commented on his parliamentary ability. Garner 
was presiding over the House gaveling administration legislation top 


passage when he wasn't on the floor helping in its management. Even 
in the face of White House cold-shouldering he had established him- 
self more firmly than ever with his colleagues in the Congress. 

The Democratic majority was more than halved by the election in 
1914. Republicans like Cannon and Longworth were returned to their 

With Underwood in the Senate, Garner, by 1915, was considered 
the most effective member of the House. He was still doing business 
off the record, however, and was little known to the country. 

He was rated by Texas as a sort of a Lone Star Congressman-at- 
large. No delegation came to Washington from Texas with an errand 
to accomplish that did not want to see Garner as well as their own 
Representative. He was known as a man who could get things done. 

Garner actually traveled little over Texas never got far from the 
huisache, mesquite and huajillo of the brush country. About the only 
large town he visited in Texas was San Antonio, and this usually was 
on the way to and from Uvalde. He attended no state political con- 
ventions and had not attended a Democratic national convention since 

In fact his duties in Washington took up so much of his time that 
he said in Brownsville about this time: 

"I have such a large district that it is almost impossible for me to get 
over it. There are five counties in the district that I have never seen. 
If I were to start out with the intention of visiting all the towns in my 
district it would take at least six months." 

He was no longer canvassing his district, franked no speeches home 
because he made none. But there were always chores to do for a dis- 
trict and Garner never forgot that the Representative who doesn't look 
after the local things for a Congressional district ordinarily does not 
stay in Congress to do things on a national scale. 

Garner was a delegate to the St. Louis convention where the Wilson- 
Marshall ticket was unanimously renominated for the 1916 race. Not 
since the days of Andrew Jackson had there been such party harmony, 
on the surface at least. 

The Republicans raided the Supreme Court for their candidate, As- 
sociate Justice Charles Evans Hughes. It was a nip-and-tuck election 
one of great disappointment to Garner. For he saw the Democrats, 


while winning the Presidency, lose their House majority. The Repub- 
licans elected 216 members, the Democrats 210 and minor parties 9. 
Champ Clark was again chosen Speaker by a coalition o Democrats 
and independents. 

Wilson's plight in the House of Representatives had been growing 
more serious for two years. Postmaster General Burleson had been 
attempting the role of liaison man between the Administration and 
Congress for four years. He had made something of a mess of it even 
with the Texas delegation. Burleson's trouble with his fellow-Texans 
had started when he unsuccessfully pushed Thomas Watt Gregory, 
afterward Attorney General, for Ambassador to Mexico. Most of the 
Texans had favored Representative James L. Slayden, of San Antonio, 
for the post and considered Burleson's action in bringing out a candi- 
date of his own as an arrogant procedure. Now with more Republi- 
cans than Democrats in the House it was certain Burleson would be 
no further help there. 

As war clouds gathered, Garner had voted for the National Defense 
Act of March 23, 1916, and on March i, 1917, he voted to furnish 
arms for American ships for defensive purposes. 

Within two weeks after Wilson's second inaugural, war seemed in- 
evitable. At eight thirty-five o'clock on the night of April 2, the Presi- 
dent stood before a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber 
and asked for a resolution recognizing that Germany was making 
war on the United States, for the raising of an army of 500,000 men 
and co-operation with the Allies in all ways that would most effec- 
tively aid in the defeat of Germany. 

All day long truculent pacifists had besieged the Capitol. A group 
had forced its way into Vice-President Marshall's office and were put 
out. They swarmed into Speaker Clark's office and groups went to the 
office of every Senator and Representative. Venerable Senator Lodge 
of Massachusetts engaged in a fist fight with one. 

By night the pacifists had been cleared from the Capitol grounds. 
Troops of the Second Cavalry guarded all approaches to the Capitol. 
Policemen, secret-service men and armed post-office inspectors swarmed 
through the Capitol building. 

Wilson came down from the White House guarded by another 
troop of cavalry. When he entered the House it was a scene the hall 


had never seen before. Directly In front of the President and facing 
him were members of the Supreme Court without their robes. Envoys 
of foreign nations sat in a group on the floor of the House. 

Vice-President Marshall and ninety Senators came in, nearly every 
Senator wearing or carrying a small American flag. Wilson got such 
a reception as Congress never gave him. It was five minutes before the 
cheering ended and he could commence his speech. 

Congress listened intently and with no interruption while he re- 
cited the German crimes against humanity, his own and his country's 
efforts to believe that the German rulers had not wholly cut themselves 
off from the path which civilized nations follow. When he came to 
the sentence "armed neutrality, it now appears is impracticable because 
submarines are in fact outlaws when used as the German submarines 
are used" attention deepened. Then he said: 

"There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making. 
We will not choose the path of submission." 

At the words "submission," Chief Justice White dropped the big 
soft hat he had been holding, raised his huge hands into the air, 
brought them together and started another great volume of cheering. 

Wilson did not pause at the end of his punch line: "The world must 
be made safe for democracy." Only Senator John Sharp Williams of 
Mississippi seemed to understand its import and he alone began the 
delayed applause. 

At 3:12 A.M., on April 6, the House voted 373 to 50 for the resolu- 
tion Wilson had asked. One of the 50 was Kitchin. From the South 
only three members had gone along with the House leader. 

A few minutes before Kitchin had sat down after telling the House: 

"Profoundly impressed with the gravity of the situation, appreciat- 
ing to the fullest the penalties which a war-mad moment will impose, 
my conscience and judgment, after mature thought and fervent prayer 
for right guidance, have marked clearly the path of my duty, and I 
have made up my mind to walk it, if I go barefooted and alone. I 
have come to the undoubting conclusion that I must vote against this 

Garner's first problem after voting for war was a family one. The 
next day, his son Tully was in his office. 

"Son," Garner asked, "how do you feel about going to war?" 

"I aim to go, Dad," Tully replied. 


"Hell, it's not a matter of aiming to go. You are going," Garner re- 
plied. "I couldn't have cast rny vote to send other boys to war., i I 
hadn't known I was sending my awn. And just one thing more: Your 
mother and I will want to hear from you every time you have a chance 
to write, but promise you'll never ask me a favor. I might be in a 
position to get it and I don't want to be exposed to temptation." 

The defection of Kitchin, the party's official leader in the House, 
at the beginning of the mightiest war in which this nation had ever 
engaged was a body blow to the Administration. Immediate authority 
was necessary to lend billions to the Allies while America itself was 
arming. Congressional sanction was also necessary for enlarging the 
Navy, erecting camps and cantonments, building ships, calling four 
million citizens to military service and sending half of them overseas. 
In addition, under the Constitution taxing measures could originate 
only in the House of Representatives. A complicated tax system to 
raise revenue had to be worked out and sweeping emergency tax bills 
passed; authority to sell bonds and other legislation was necessary. 

Wilson called Garner to the White House and asked him to become 
liaison man between the President and Congress. 

"I know you don't waste time on speeches and you get things done," 
Wilson told the Texan. "I think you have the respect and affection of 
men of both parties in the House." 

As Wilson's liaison man, Garner cultivated the original gift for 
anonymity in Washington. The fact that he was acting as Congres- 
sional adviser to the President was not known for some time. From 
mid-April until August 17, it was not openly mentioned on the floor. 
On that occasion Representative Wingo, Democrat, Arkansas, made an 
inquiry of Mr. Garner "whom I presume for the time being is major- 
ity leader de jure as well as de facto" 

Garner himself never made a reference to his role of Administrative 
spokesman. He conferred with Cannon, Longworth, Fordney, Mann, 
Julius Kahn and other Republican leaders as well as with the Demo- 
crats. In all that time he did not make a formal speech. Representative 
J. Hampton Moore, Republican, Pennsylvania, said on the floor: 

"I wish to pay a public tribute to the gendeman from Texas. He 
seldom makes a speech on the floor and thus denies the public the 
benefit of his wisdom, but in committee he is so adroit and skillful a 
legislator that few can equal him." 

Wilson, who originally had not liked Garner, was fond of him 
now. He said the Texan was direct and never engaged in slovenly or 
evasive thinking. Joseph P. Tumulty, Wilson's secretary, it was gen- 
erally believed, had been the agent who brought Wilson around to 
admiration of Garner and dependence on him. 

"I regard Joha Nance Garner as the most genuine personality that 
has come upon the stage of our national life in a generation," Tumulty 
said. "He makes conquests over the hearts of men by the simple quali- 
ties of honor, decency and fair dealing which make up the happy 
blend of his nature." 

Wilson asked Garner to come to the White House at least twice a 
week and to be prepared to come oftener. Although Garner was to see 
Wilson oftener during those drama-packed months than the Wilson 
Cabinet did, few members of Congress and few people in the execu- 
tive branch, other than Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo and Presi- 
dential Secretary Tumulty, knew of it. 

Garner would go to the White House by streetcar, enter Tumulty's 
office and then go through the corridor to the President's private study. 
Sometimes the conferences would last for several hours. One lasted 
until one o'clock in the morning. 

"Sometimes I would find President Wilson so fatigued and worn 
that I was afraid he would not be able to keep on his feet. I would 
try to cheer him up. I never knew whether he liked some of the rough 
jokes I told him or not. 

"He told good stories himself and was a master of dialect. He was 
especially good on Irish stories. At times he would seem to be carrying 
the whole war on his shoulders. On occasions when he would illustrate 
a point by a story or a limerick and had a laugh we could transact 
business much faster." 

On one occasion Garner found Wilson almost ill from fatigue. 

"Garner/' he said, "this job is almost unbearable. If it was not for 
my faith in the old Presbyterian belief in predestination I don't believe 
I could hold up much longer." 

Garner made a pretense of not understanding Mr. Wilson's refer- 
ence to predestination. 

"Mr. President, I am the same way," he said. "I grew up in Texas 
with the same kind of people you grew up with in Virginia, and I 
am as superstitious as hell myself." 

It got the relaxed laugh he wanted. Then Wilson replied: 
"Garner, I think our 'superstition' will carry us both through." 
Wilson, like all Presidents, wanted his legislation without delay. 
"I would tell him that Congress wanted to provide all the money 
necessary to win the war and would do so," Garner said. "Once I said 
to him: 'Mr. President, the first fourteen years I was in Congress the 
federal government never spent as much as three-quarters of a billion 
dollars in any year. This war is going to cost us from $10,000,000,000 
to $20,000,000,000 a year. Congress has never had any experience in 
raising such sums. The problem now is to get it to thinking in such 
astronomical terms. After the war the problem will be to get it out 
of the habit of thinking in such terms. 5 " 

A few days later on the floor of the House, during consideration of 
a bond bill. Speaker Clark said: 

"If the people conclude that this war debt is going to be piled so 
high that it is not going to be paid in any reasonable time they will 
not buy the bonds." 

"Then," replied Garner, "we have got to confiscate wealth.'* 
The approach of the 1918 election found an anti-Democratic tide 
setting in. It was evident that the Republicans had an even or better 
chance of carrying the House of Representatives. A group of Wilson's 
advisers, including Postmaster General Burleson, advised him to make 
a strong appeal for the return of a Democratic Congress. Wilson, they 
felt, was entrenched in the hearts of the people. Burleson believed such 
an appeal would make it possible for many Democrats to ride in on 
Wilson's coattails. 

Garner was dead set against the appeal He was anxious for the 
Democrats to keep hold of the government. He had a feeling that the 
people would resent Wilson's interference with their choice of their 
Senators and Representatives. Moreover, the legislation required for 
the conduct of the war had been enacted with Republicans and Demo- 
crats standing shoulder to shoulder. He thought that not only would 
the appeal be bad politics but would make the situation in Congress 
more difficult. However, Wilson wrote his letter: 

"My fellow country ... If you have approved my leadership ... I 
earnestly hope you will express yourself unmistakedly to that effect 
by returning a Democratic majority . . ." 

It was a disastrous stroke. Quite probably the Democrats would have 
lost anyway. But the Wilson letter made the downfall certain. The 
Republicans elected 237 members o the House, the Democrats only 
191 and the minor parties came up with 7 seats. The Armistice was 
signed before the full returns had been tabulated. 

The end of eight years* Democratic sway in the House and the end 
of war meant many changes. Garner's liaison work ended. Wilson 
went to Europe for the peace conference. Kitchin did not resume the 
leadership. Champ Clark left the Speakership to become minority 

Although Garner has steadfastly refused to make comparisons be- 
tween the Presidents, his conversations leave rne no doubt he looked 
on Wilson as the towering figure among Presidents who served while 
he was in Washington. 

"Wilson was the greatest intellectual aristocrat I have ever known," 
he said. "No President ever had a deeper philosophy of government. 
His messages to Congress were the most statesmanlike of any I have 
ever heard or read they lay over all others like a dollar lays over a 
dime. Some of the great moments of my life were when he stood 
before Congress. No President ever had Wilson's gift of expression. 
His vocabulary was unsurpassed. He could always come up with just 
the exact word or proper phrase. Wilson believed in open covenants, 
openly arrived at. He dealt with the whole Congress not just a few 

Garner, who had never guessed a national election wrong, saw no 
chance of the Democrats winning in 1920. He had served the first eight 
of his years with the Republicans in control of the House and his first 
ten with them in control of the Presidency. He had no desire to serve 
in the minority again and decided to retire with his ambition for 
the Speakership unfulfilled. He began the building of a home in* 

A situation in his district caused him to postpone the retirement for 
two years. Actually he was to postpone it for twenty more years. 

His party was swept out of power in a Republican landslide in 1920 
and twelve years of G.O.P. rule began. Paradoxically, Garner was 
later to consider that these twelve years were his most useful of all 
his time in Washington. 



Guerrilla Fighter 

THE Harding landslide of 1920 smashed the Democratic party 
in the House of Representatives as well as all over the nation. 
It left only four Democrats in the House who were there 
when Garner came in, only 132 Democrats of any kind. There were 
an even 300 Republicans and one independent. The Senate was not 
quite so one sided, but the G.O.P. had a majority of 22 there. 

The most grievous blow to Garner was the defeat of Champ 
Clark in his Missouri district. The doughty old Speaker did not live 
to go back to private life. He died in Washington on March 2, 1921, 
two days before the end of his term. 

Cordell Hull in Tennessee, Henry T. Rainey in Illinois and General 
Isaac Sherwood in Ohio were among members of the House swept into 
discard. New York City went Republican for one of the few times in 
its history, tossing out all but a half-dozen of its usually large Demo- 
cratic Congressional delegation. Even Texas elected one Republican 

Garner, in a tiny minority, stood at the threshold of the four most 
spectacular years of his Washington service. Yet he was to begin the 
period in disappointment, deprived of the party leadership he felt he 
had earned. Another event which would cause him deep disappoint- 
ment was yet two years away. The denial of party leadership came 
not through a caucus decision but by the action of one man. 

With Champ Clark gone, the Democratic House organization re- 
stored Representative Claude Kitchin of North Carolina to the party 
leadership, which he had actually exercised from the retirement of 
Oscar W. Underwood in 1915 to the beginning of the war, and 
nominally held during the war. Kitchin's health was failing in 1921, 

and he decided to attempt to recover It by leaving Washington for 
a long rest. 

The expectation was general that Garner as the second ranking 
member o the Ways and Means Committee would automatically 
carry on in the absence of Kitchin. But the North Carolinian did an 
unexpected thing. He called a party caucus, explained the condition 
of his health and said he was appointing Representative Finis J. 
Garrett of Tennessee as acting minority leader while he was away 
to recuperate. 

Garrett was an eminent legislator, one of the party's best debaters 
and a close friend of Garner's. There was no question of his popularity 
or his ability. He had the respect of both Democratic and Republican 
leaders. But his naming by one-man action surprised the House 
Democrats. The reason was never given. One obvious conclusion to 
draw would be that Kitchin resented the part Garner played as 
Administration spokesman during the war after Kitchin had refused 
to follow the President. Another reason, perhaps, lay in their differ- 
ences over the tariff. Kitchin was virtually a free-trader. Garner had 
been elected to Congress on a platform calling for protection for raw 
material when the objects into which it was manufactured also 
carried duty. With the tariff a leading issue between the Republicans 
and Democrats then, as it had long been, Kitchin undoubtedly did 
not want to entrust the leadership to one with Garner's views. 

Garner made no public comment on the unusual action of the 
ailing Kitchin, and plunged into preparation for the impending tariff 
and tax battles. These two fiscal issues were to be the leading business of 
Congress for the next two years. Garner, as ranking minority member 
of the Ways and Means Committee, would have to carry the load 
of them both in committee and on the floor. 

Besides the eminence he was to gain for his handling of the tax 
and tariff measures, these things within the next few years were to 
happen to Garner: 

The Ku Klux Klan was to make a supreme effort to retire him to 
private life. 

He was to make one of the most vitriolic attacks on a fellow-member 
ever heard in the halls of Congress. 



Garner as a House member and Pat Harrison in the Senate 
were a tax team which wrecked Republican tax measures. (Reg 
Manning, Phoenix Republican 5 1 Gazette) 

He was to figure in speculation for the possible Democratic Presi- 
dential or Vice-Presidential nomination in 1924, 

He was to be near death. 

He was to get two o the most remarkable ovations ever given a 
member of Congress. 

The depression in the farm and livestock areas which began in 

1920, and continued for more than a decade, brought forth such relief 
proposals as the emergency tariff and, when it failed, the McNary- 
Haugen farm relief bill The emergency tariff was proposed in the 
winter of 1921, with President Wilson in the White House. 

Garner voted for the emergency tariff originally, but switched after 
it had been amended to include manufactured goods. He charged that 
"in order that relief be granted to farming and stock-raising sections 
we must also vote to give the manufacturers of New England a duty 
of from 25 to 2,500 per cent on goods coming from Central Europe." 

President Wilson vetoed the bill after it had passed Republican 
Senate and House and the veto was sustained. It was presented to 
President Harding, and he signed it into law in May, 1921, The 
Fordney-McCumber tariff bill hearings began in the Ways and Means 
Committee in January 1921, and its final passage did not come until 
September 1922. 

With the Fordney-McCumber bill under consideration on July 9, 

1921, Garner got up to put on the first of the floorshows he was to 
give the House. It was a sultry day and the House Chamber had not 
yet been air conditioned. Fordney had opened the debate the day 
before. He paid a tribute to Garner and said Texas ought to elect him 
for life. 

The heat did not deter nor the Fordney compliment soften Garner 
in his attack on the bill. He spoke for two hours, the longest speech he 
had ever made and he was to show the members and the galleries 
acrobatic gesticulation not seen since the heyday of left-handed Joe 
Cannon. He had, next to Cannon, most members thought, the most 
unusual manner of speaking. To him consideration of a tax or tariff 
bill was high adventure. He spoke that day in the well of the House, as 
he always did, standing almost up against the first row of Republican 

His red face grew redder as he threw both arms out from his head 
until they were extending full length with the palms facing one 
another, raising and lowering his body from the knees in violent 

The bill abandoned the old plan of fixing tariff duties according to 
the foreign value of the object. Instead, it included a new device known 
as American valuation. Thus, before a rate could be fixed the 


difference in the cost of production here and abroad would have to be 
determined. Garner centered his fire on this provision. He said it would 
create a tariff which would be prohibitive the highest in American 

Garner told the House that world conditions were so unsettled as 
a result of the First World War that it was impossible to ascertain 
differences in domestic and foreign costs. Seizing a straw hat, the 
first object available, he defied any member on the Republican side 
to tell what the rates would be under American valuation. None 

"I am not a free-trader," he said, "neither am I for a protective tariff 
wall around this country that will impede the freedom of the commerce 
of the world. We must do business with the world if we expect to sell 
the excess of our farm production. The West has a lot of wheat to 
sell. The South has a lot of cotton to sell. How can the world pay 
for them? They have no gold. We have more gold today than we 
ought to have under proper economic conditions throughout the 
world. There are only three ways other countries can pay. One is with 
gold, the other service, the other to exchange their goods for ours. We 
do not propose that they shall pay us in service, because we expect to 
carry our own goods across the seas in our own merchant marine, so 
there is only one way they can pay us and that is to send us their 
manufactured goods. 

"If you make it so other nations cannot send us their products by 
this American valuation proposal by putting in this clause and 
estimating the value of their currency you will close all the customs 
houses, and there will be no way we can sell goods. In my judgment, 
the greatest economic blunder that could be made would be to put the 
American valuation clause in even a moderate tariff bill." 

It was Garner's first full-dress test as a debater on an economic 
issue and the Republican leaders heckled him throughout his speech. 
Longworth, especially, took keen delight in the process. Garner took 
care of himself so well in the running fire debate with Republican 
leaders as to win the unanimous applause of the Democrats. 

Garner believed before the tariff debate had gone very far that 
he had the Republicans in distress. He knew he could not prevent the 
passage of the bill, but if he could delay it and dramatize its defects, 


he could bring Important modifications and he could make of it a 
campaign issue which would pay dividends in increased Democratic 
strength at the next election. The history o all tariff bills was that 
while the public seemed apathetic during the discussion in Congress, 
at the following election the party which had revised the tariff either 
lost the House of Representatives or had its majority whittled to the 
vanishing point. 

On the fifth day of the debate, Garner played his ace. He moved W. 
Bourke Cockran of New York into the debate. The last of the old-time 
orators, Cockran was never better than that day. In the House of 
Representatives there is usually not much decorum and little chance 
for debate. But that day it was different. The great silver-crested head 
and the commanding appearance of the old warrior stilled the House 
tumult. Members' seats and galleries were filled. Here was a man 
who had been a match for Choate and more than a match for Depew 
and Bryan. He had been in and out of Congress since 1887,, in and 
out of the Democratic party many times. No member of Congress 
had Cockran's reputation for ingeniousness of thought, epigrammatic 
brilliance of expression, fervent emotion, splendid voice and impressive 

Cockran attacked the bill with all his glibness of tongue and floods 
of sarcasm. He held the floor for hours, was given extension after 
extension of his time. His great familiarity with American economic 
history, of tariff bills and of financial panics, his retentive memory 
charmed the House. He was to live less than two years and this was 
his last big oratorical effort. Many believed it was his greatest speech, 
but that was the way with Cockran. Any audience listening to him 
always believed the speech he was then making was the best of 
his life. 

Garner was highly pleased at the reaction to Cockran's speech. The 
Democrats were living up to their fine reputation as an effective 
minority party. But the honeymoon of the minority hardly lasted out 
the first fortnight of the tariff debate. On July 21, Kitchin, from his 
sickbed at Scotland Neck, North Carolina, sent a telegram imploring 
the Democrats to vote against every item of protection in the bill 
Any other course, he said, was not good Democratic doctrine. 

This was an assault on the position Garner had taken in all tariff 

bills protection for the raw material if there was protection for its 
finished product. 

Garner lost little time replying to Kitchin. 

"I have never criticized a Democrat for what I thought was want of 
fealty to his party," he said. "I never strike a blow in the back whether 
it is in politics or otherwise. I play the game squarely. I play it on top 
of the table. 

"I have taken the floor this morning for one purpose and one 
purpose only, to again state my position on the tariff. After I have made 
my statement, no gentleman in this House will misunderstand my 
position; and not misunderstanding it, no honest man will misrepresent 
it and no intelligent man will misinterpret it. 

"There are but three points of view on the tariff. One is for free 
trade, another is for revenue, while the third is for protection. 
No one can name a fourth position. 

"I am not a free-trader. I am not a protectionist. I must, therefore, 
be a revenue-tariff man. I cannot understand a Republican who tells 
me he is a protectionist and wants to protect what is in his district and 
put what is in someone else's district on the free list. I cannot under- 
stand a Democrat who tells me he is a Revenue Democrat, but says 
he is going to levy 30 per cent on the clothes you wear, but admit duty 
free the shoes you have on your feet. I cannot understand this reason- 
ing; and it ought not be misunderstood that when you go to the 
customs house as a Democrat you go not to get protection but to get 
money to put into the Treasury. 

"They tell me that I must not vote for a duty on cotton because it is 
not Democratic doctrine. Where is your authority? Show me the 
Democratic platform or the adoption of a caucus resolution, and I will 
abide by it. But you ought not to say to me that I am not a Democrat 
because, forsooth, I do not take your views with reference to what I 
ought to do, when neither the Democratic platform, nor the Demo- 
cratic caucus have ever spoken upon the question. 

"My position is: tax one, tax all; free one, free all; protect one, 
protect all; catch one, catch all. I ask you Democrats one question: 
If you collect a revenue duty on woolen goods why not collect it on 
wool? I ask you why you are afraid to put i per cent on shoes when 
you put 40 per cent on hats in the Underwood bill. 


"I think I have made myself pretty well understood. I am opposed 
to free trade, but if I am driven to choose between the theory of Mr. 
Fordney, protectionist, and the theory of Mr. Oldfield of Arkansas, 
free-trader, with conditions as they exist in Europe and throughout the 
world, we being a creditor nation to the extent of $15,000,000,000, 
I tell you frankly I would go to free trade. 

"I want to be consistent, I want to be just, I want to be fair and I 
do not want to have to apologize to one man because I put this on 
the free list and to another man because I put something else on the 
tax list. 

"So I would take you all and as your goods come to the customs 
house, I would levy a rate of from i to 50 per cent. I would put the 
highest duty on luxuries. I would put the next highest on comforts. I 
would put the lowest on absolute necessities. I think in this method I 
would have a scheme of custom collection that would appeal to every 
honest man. When you say this is not Democratic doctrine, I want you 
to be as frank as I have been. I want you to tell me where you stand on 
the question." 

Garner's forthright statement was listened to with the closest atten- 
tion and he received a rising ovation from both the Democratic and 
Republican side as he finished. The bill passed the House that day, 
but merely the first round had been fought. 

The Senate Finance Committee held the bill for nine months. The 
Senate with a Republican majority of twenty-two took the view that 
American valuation was not workable. It began to look as if the 
Congressional election of 1922 would be held with the Underwood 
tariff act still on the statute books. 

During the twenty-one-month journey of the tariff bill through 
Congress the Garners lived at Congress Hall, a hotel across the street 
from the Capitol, where the new House office building now stands. In 
the back of the hotel, on the first floor, was a room known on Capitol 
Hill as Dinty Moore's. Here every evening many members would 
gather for bridge or poker. Garner was one of the regular visitors. 
Many of the members who participated were Western Republicans. In 
this way Garner was up to his old tricks. He was keeping up his 
friendships, not only with the Democrats, but the Republicans. 

Gamer was also faced at this time with the decision of whether 


or not he would seek re-election. In 1920, he planned to retire at the 
end of two years. The two authors of the tariff bill were going out 
of office: Representative Fordney by voluntary retirement; Senator 
McCumber had been defeated for renomination in the North Dakota 

The thing that decided Garner was the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan had 
mushroomed in the country. Some Texas members of Congress joined 
it. Garner denounced it as an organization which had no place in 
American life. It was at the risk of his political life. The Klan lost no 
time in replying. It announced it intended to retire Garner to private 
life. Garner accepted the challenge. 

Hooded and white-gowned hosts gathered near his home, burned a 
fiery cross and announced plans for defeating him. It sent him 
threatening letters. Other than to make his position known on the 
Klan issue, Garner made no campaign. He lost counties he had never 
lost before, including Uvalde, but won re-election. 

The tariff bill came back to the Senate late in August, after Garner 
had won renomination. Ostensibly a compromise bill was to be 
written by Senators McCumber, Srnoot and McLean, Republicans; and 
Senators Simmons and Walsh, Democrats; meeting with Represent- 
atives Fordney, Longworth and Green, Republicans; and Garner and 
Collier, Democrats. 

In writing what they thought was the final draft of the bill the 
Republicans from Senate and House paid little attention to what 
Garner and the other Democrats wanted and drew up the measure 
to suit themselves. Among other things the completed bill placed an 
embargo on dye stuffs and a heavy duty on fertilizer. 
^ Garner had proved to be a first-class fighting man up to this point 
in the tariff discussion. Now his ingratiating manner and clever 
maneuvering were to bear fruit. 

On September 13, Garner made the first of the forays he was to make 
across the aisle to capture Republican strength. He moved to recommit 
the tariff bill with instructions to abandon the dye embargo provisions 
and place fertilizer on the free list. 

Fordney made a plea for the bill as written. He told his colleagues 
he was going out of public life and that was the last piece of legislation 
he would present, 


"I have prayed every night for wisdom to help me prepare the best 
tariff bill on record," he said. 

Garner paid a tribute to Fordney: 

"He is a type unto himself," Gamer said. "I believe we will all agree 
that if one had to select a standpat, dyed-in-the-wool, powder-burnt 
and Chinese Wall tariff man in the House of Representatives, we 
would select Joe Fordney. But if this tariff bill came after prayers, I 
doubt if the gentleman from Michigan is going to get through the 
pearly gates." 

The Democrats were united behind Garner now. The vote came 
after hours of acrid debate with Fordney, Longworth and Mondell 
trying to stem the tide flowing against them. In a great mass desertion, 
102 Republicans left Fordney and Longworth to follow Garner. By 
a vote of 177 to 130, the bill was recommitted with a direct order from 
the House compelling the committee to strike out the two objection- 
able sections. As Speaker Gillett announced the result, the Democratic 
side broke into rebel yells. Never before had a tariff bill been re- 
committed. The stunned Fordney moved adjournment. Garner had 
added this to his previous victory on the American valuation clause. 

Next day in committee room Fordney said to Garner: 

"You ought to vote for this bill now. Your picture is on every 
page of it." 

On the floor, Longworth said wryly: 

"The gentleman from Texas is the greatest fisherman since Izaak 
Walton. With the able assistance of the gentleman from Minnesota, 
Mr. Knutson, who acted as basket carrier, Mr. Garner cast his line 
across the line and hooked more than 100 Republicans. Let him take 
what satisfaction he desires from it. He will never do so well on this 
side again." 

The tariff bill with the two Garner modifications became law, by 
President Harding's signature, on September 21, 1922. Garner won 
other victories with Republican support during the session. 

He first forced the Republicans to shelve President Harding's anti- 
tax-free security bill. Garner conceded the evil of offering tax-free 
securities which he said often fall into the hands of tax dodgers. But 
he maintained that the bill as presented by the Administration would 
prohibit states, counties, municipalities, drainage districts and other 


subdivisions of government from issuing bonds and would bring to 
a standstill internal improvements. 

"It is just as reasonable to say that the counties and states should 
have the power to tax federal bonds as it is to say that the federal 
government should have the power to tax state and county bonds," he 

Majority Leader Mondell, in laying the bill aside, gave Garner 
credit for wrecking it. 

When the Mellon tax bill of 1921 came in on August 2, 1921, Garner 
attacked the proposal aS a "shifting of the tax burden to those least 
able to pay." He sniped at the proposal of a cut in the highest surtax 
rate to 25 per cent and brought about a House compromise rate of 32 
per cent. The Senate came nearer to his views than the House bill 
had, making it 50 per cent. 

When the Senate bill came back to the House, Garner in a swift 
parliamentary move called it up and tied the hands of the conference 
committee by putting through a vote of acceptance of the Senate rate. 
Again he raided the Republican side this time turning up 94 G.O.P. 
votes for his proposal. 

The 1921 tax bill also furnished Garner an opportunity to state his 
views on taxation under the country's changing economic position and 
lay the groundwork for his slashing attack on the second Mellon tax 
bill two years later. 

In his speech of November 21, 1921, Garner said: 

"At the very outset of my remarks I think I ought to reiterate, if 
I may, my personal position touching taxation, and what I believe to be 
the position of the great majority of the Democrats touching the same 

"In the first place, as I understand it, there are in this country three 
well-defined positions concerning taxation. One of these positions is 
that the government shall levy upon the masses of the people taxes 
necessary to run the government. The advocates of this plan use as an 
argument that after all the whole people must pay the tax; that 
regardless of what method is used it sifts back to the masses, and 
consequently many who are found holding this opinion are found 
advocating the sales tax. It is their view that the sales tax is the 


simplest way of getting the money which they say the people 
collectively must pay anyway in the long run, 

"There is another class of gentlemen who believe that all taxes 
necessary to run the government should be levied on wealth, and that 
there should be no consumption and excise taxes, which the public 
in general would have to pay. These two classes I have just mentioned 
are the two extremes. There is another class who believe that Congress 
should collect from the masses and by that I mean everybody, rich 
and poor, learned and unlearned, great and small, according to their 
necessities, approximately 50 per cent of the taxes necessary to run the 
government, and upon wealth the other 50 per cent. 

"I do not believe it would be desirable or practicable to undertake 
to get all the revenue necessary to support the government ffom those 
we ordinarily term the wealthy class. I have as much respect for the 
preservation of property rights as any man who sits in this honorable 
body. I would never enact any law that would take away from the 
citizen the incentive to accumulate wealth. 

"I realize that capital for the most part represents the wages of 
yesterday and that the wages of yesterday should be as safe from 
confiscation as the wages of today, and we cannot abolish poverty by 
destroying wealth; but while I would allow any citizen reasonable 
opportunity and incentive to accumulate wealth, I would also enact 
laws which would carry a reasonable part of the fortune back to the 
people through an inheritance tax collected by the Treasury of the 
United States. If I had my way I would have five taxes in this 
country, and we could get sufficient revenue from those five sources to 
run the government. I would have first a customs tax; second, the 
post-office receipts; third a tax on tobacco; fourth an income tax 
applied to individuals and corporations and fifth, an inheritance tax." 

Garner had told me at the end of the debate on the Fordney- 
McCumber bill: 

"I think this will be the last tariff bill drawn along these lines 
and debated along the lines we debated it. We are in a new fiscal 
era and a new economic era and we occupy a new place in the world 
picture. We are a creditor nation. 

"The revenue yield from the customs houses in the future will be 
negligible. Our fiscal problems will multiply. We will collect an 


enormous tax from internal earnings, principally income. It can be 
collected in a way to remake our society." 

He made a somewhat similar statement in a House speech. 

Garner's fight against the tariff bill in its final stages and against the 
tax bill won the admiration of Kitchin. In the closing months of his 
life he wrote many letters to Garner. The Texan prized them highly. 
A few years ago when he destroyed all his papers the Kitchin letters 
went with them. I think he regretted destroying them more than any 
other of his papers. 

On April 6, 1922, Garner made a vitriolic attack on Representative 
Thomas L. Blanton, who, Garner said, had made a speech in Texas 
displaying a whisky flask, leaving the impression that such flasks were 
furnished free to members of Congress at the taxpayers' expense. 

Representative Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky said that Blanton 
went up to the stationery room in the Capitol and asked for a whisky 

"They did not have it," Barkley said. "They advised him that they 
did not keep them for sale. He then requested the stationery room to 
order him one. The stationery room ordered him one. It was a pint 
flask, covered with ostrich hide, for which Mr. Blanton paid in cash 
at the time he got it, the price being six dollars." 

Blanton had just concluded a tirade against the perquisites of Con- 
gressmen when Garner asked to be recognized for ten minutes. 

The following proceedings took place: 

MR. GARNER. Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the House, in these 
United States there are all kinds of liars [applause] there are artistic 
liars, there are inartistic liars, and then there is the common, ordinary 

MR. BLANTON. Well, I will hold the gentleman personally responsible 
to me if he calls me one. 

[The Speaker ordered Blanton to take his seat.] 

MR. GARNER. Mr. Speaker, if I may have order I hope that the 
gentleman [Mr. Blanton] will not leave. 

A MEMBER. He has left. 

MR. GARNER. Mr. Speaker, when I look over here and see this grand 
old man from Pennsylvania, sitting here [MR. BUTLER], I know that he 
is a truthful man, and you could not make him lie. [Applause.] When 


I come over on this side and look at our distinguished leader [MR. 
GAKRETT o Tennessee], every man in this House will testify that you 
could not wring a falsehood from him. [Applause, all Members rising.] 

But, Mr. Speaker, I have in my mind's eye I can not observe him 
at this moment, of course but I have in my mind's eye an individual, 
not a man an individual, a creature, who is as common and base a liar 
as ever spoke a word of English in this country. I have in my mind's 
eye, Mr. Speaker, a man who if he had the opportunity mark 
my language; I want to stay within the rules of this House who 
would if he had the opportunity place in the Congressional Record 
the menu of the restaurant in this building where we get our lunches, 
without the cost price of the different articles, in order that he might 
make the people of Texas believe that you were getting your food 
free of charge at the cost of the taxpayers of this country. I know a 
miserable, cowardly creature I have him in my mind's eye at this 
moment who would go to the stationery room of the House Office 
Building, make inquiry as to the purchase of a whisky flask, and 
when he found that he could not get it because they did not have them 
for sale, would ask the superintendent to send to Philadelphia and buy 
him one, in order that he might parade it in Texas as though it was 
given to the membership of this House free of charge at the tax- 
payers' expense. That creature, as I say, I have in my mind's eye. I 
know this individual would charge you with nepotism in order that 
he might parade his virtue in Texas, and at the same time have two of 
his children on the pay roll of the Government. 

Mr. Speaker, it is a harsh thing to speak about individuals, even 
if they are only in your mind's eye; but I, speaking for myself alone 
I say it with as firm a conviction as I ever spoke a word from 
the floor of this House that I believe that individual, that creature 
that I have in my mind's eye, would do anything in order to accumu- 
late wealth or to place himself forward from a political standpoint. 

Mr. Speaker, I want to say one word for the Texas delegation. I 
have not mentioned a name up to date, but I want to say to the mem- 
bership on the Republican side of the House, because the membership 
on the Democratic side already know it I speak the sentiment of every 
Member of the Texas delegation when I tell you that we hang our 
heads in shame and in humiliation every time BLANTON, of Texas, is 

[ 100 ] 

referred to as our colleague. [Applause.] I speak for the Democratic 
Party here, I believe, the sentiment of every man in it, when I say 
that we look upon him as a liability and a distinct injury to our party. 
[Applause.] Ah, Mr. Speaker, I wish the rules of this House did not 
prevent me from expressing the viewpoint of all Members of the 
House. If I could only suspend the rules, Mr. Speaker, I would say 
what is in the hearts of the Members. I would say now, if the rules 
did not prevent me from saying it, I would say what 430 men believe 
at this moment, that THOMAS BLANTON of Texas, is a discredit to the 
House of Representatives and ought to be kicked out. [Applause.] 

The Democrats made a gain of 71 in the races for the House of 
Representatives in 1922. A new Mellon tax bill was on the way and 
Garner prepared to attack it. But before Congress again convened, 
Harding was dead and Coolidge was in the White House. 

Garner knew Harding well as a Senator. But after the Ohioan went 
to the White House Garner saw him only a few times. 

"I think I had less dealings with Harding than any other President," 
he told me. "Of course he was in office for a shorter time than any 
other President during my time in Washington. I went to the White 
House several times with Congressional committees on legislative 
matters. That was the extent of my White House relations while he 
was in office. 

"The executive scandals shocked the country. This shameful page in 
American history should have resulted in Democratic victory in 1924, 
had Harding lived. Harding's death and the national convention 
spectacle the Democrats made of themselves, combined to give the 
Republicans additional tenure." 

But in what he regarded as a very dark Harding ledger, Garner 
found these credits: 

"Harding had four of the best Cabinet officers ever to serve at one 
time in Hughes, Mellon, Hoover and Weeks, and he deserves the 
thanks of the country for having appointed William Howard Taft to 
be Chief Justice of the United States." 

Garner refused to stand for the minority leadership when it became 
evident Kitchin could not return to Washington. He supported Garrett 
for the leadership. 

In a statement he said: 


"If the Democratic party Is to be useful to the country in. the 
Sixty-Eighth Congress, it must be united and able to register full 
strength. Anything that contributes to party division is hurtful, and 
I am not willing, even remotely, to contribute to such division. There- 
fore, in the interest of party harmony, I do not expect to become a 
candidate for the minority floor leadership in the Sixty-Eighth 

But this was a great sentimental disappointment to him. Mondell 
had retired from the Republican leadership and Longworth was slated 
as his successor. But for Kitchin's action, which he could not have 
upset without a party fight, Garner would have assumed the minority 
leadership the day Longworth became majority leader. 


Mellon, Coolidge, and Taxes 

REPRESENTATIVE Garner's spectacular and successful cam- 
paign against the second Mellon tax plan began in the 
Christmas holidays of 1923. The Texan opened it with a 
slashing attack on the secrecy with which the Ways and Means 
Committee was considering the measure. He charged, too, that the 
Treasury was trying to coerce Congress to support it even before its 
provisions were known. 

The tax-originating committee of the House had taken a secret 
Treasury draft of the proposed bill into its sessions early in December, 
Almosj: simultaneously with the arrival of the Treasury product at the 
committee room Senators and Representatives were deluged with 
letters and telegrams demanding they "support the Mellon tax plan." 

Through a committee leak on December 27, two New York and 
one Chicago newspaper got the text of the bill. Garner insisted that the 
committee make its provisions available to all, but the Republican 
members voted him down and hastily adjourned. A day or two later 
Chairman Green gave the bill out on his own authority. Garner 
punctuated the holiday recess with blasts against it. 

Garner by now was fifty-five years old and had twenty-one years of 
Congressional experience behind him. He was familiar with all the 
tricks of parliamentary jousting and in-fighting. He was adept in 
timing a raid across the dividing aisle in quest of Republican votes, 
knew how to pivot a debate to get the greatest benefit for his own 
party and various methods of catching the Republicans off guard. 

His party's strength was far greater than when by a swift parlia- 
mentary maneuver he had forced a change in the rates of the 1921 
Mellon tax bill. Yet Garner moved into the 1924 fight without any 

great hopes of altering the Mellon plan in any major particular. For 
one thing he knew that in the previous two years Secretary Mellon 
had built up a reputation o financial infallibility. He was not sure 
his own party would stand behind him in the face of the pressure from 
home. But he felt the stakes were so high that he would make the 
fight of his life. 

He told me: 

"This is the time to determine the policy of who is going to pay 
the taxes. The crux of the fight is the surtax. The Mellon 25 per 
cent maximum is at least 10 or 15 per cent too low." 

From his own state of Texas, Garner got the first confirmation 
of his claim that the public was endorsing the Mellon plan without 
knowing its contents. Desks of Texas Senators and Representatives- 
were piled high with telegrams demanding support of the Mellon 
plan. When its provisions became public it was found that it proposed 
to do away with the community tax device whereby husbands and 
wives are permitted to divide their incomes for tax-paying purposes. 
The privilege was then enjoyed only by Texas, and a-half dozen 
other states. The Texans quickly reversed themselves and began 
bombarding their Congressional delegation with demands to defeat it. 

The Mellon tax bill was introduced on January 6, and the Garner 
bill was dropped into the hopper at the same time. 

The Mellon bill proposed maximum surtaxes of 25 per cent and 
Garner countered with a 44 per cent ceiling. On tax reductions Mellon 
proposed slices of 25 per cent on incomes under $25,000 and 39 per cent 
on incomes under $200,000, while Garner proposed giving the smaller 
income-tax brackets a major reduction up to 60 per cent. Those with 
between $100,000 and $200,000 incomes Garner would give only n 
per cent. 

All during the first three weeks in January, Garner underwent the 
heaviest fire of criticism of his life. Democratic as well as Republican 
newspapers attacked his plan. One editorial asserted that "dangerous 
mutilation begins when it [the Mellon plan] is departed from in the 

Garner could figure out a tax bill on his cuff and sometimes could 
come nearer calculating the yields from a bill than the fiscal experts of 

Big by Any Measure 

When Garner received the first serious mention a Texan had 
ever had as a potential President, a Dallas paper told a trinity 
of qualifications. (Dallas Times Herald} 

the Treasury could. The Mellon tax bill which he ripped apart and 
rewrote was 180 pages of highly technical language. 

Representative Ogden L. Mills of New York, later Secretary of the 
Treasury, ridiculed the Garner bill, telling the House: 

"You have heard of great musicians sitting down at a piano and 
improvising a tune. Mr. Garner sits down at a table in this chamber 
and improvises a tax bill and the House is asked to adopt it. If this 
practice is to be followed in the future I would suggest that each 
member of this House write on his cuff what he deems a wise measure 
of taxation; the cuffs shall be handed to Mr. Garner, and with his 
okay they shall be handed in at the Speaker's desk and then voted in, 
cuff by cuff." 

Garner took his plan before the Democratic caucus and came away 
with every Democratic House member except one pledged to its 
support. Meanwhile, his coup had started a free-for-all fight in the 
Republican majority, dividing it into three mutually hostile sections. 
One stood for the Mellon plan intact, a second group for a 40 to 50 
per cent surtax ceiling and a third for 37 per cent top. 

Garner by now was certain he had won the essential parts of his 
program. He told me: 

"When this tax bill goes to Mr. Coolidge for his signature it will be 
our bill in all its essential features." 

On January 23, the G.O.P. ran up a flag of truce. The Mellon bill 
was down and out. Longworth admitted it. Chairman Green of the 
Ways and Means Committee proposed to sit down with the Democrats 
and work out a compromise bill. Garner refused. He wanted a House 
roll call. 

The next day, Garner arose to rub salt into the Republican wounds. 
Especially, he taunted Longworth: 

"You couldn't get the old Roman from Iowa, Bill Green [Chairman 
of the Ways and Means Committee], to vote for 25 per cent," Garner 
said. "So you stacked up the committee. Mr. Longworth was smart 
enough to do that. He fixed it so Mr. Green can't do anything but 
just sit there and laugh and pat his hands. That is as far as he can go. 
Of course, he is a mighty good man. I get sorry for him sitting there 
knowing that he is surrounded by Mr. Mills of New York, Mr. 
Treadway of Massachusetts, and Mr. Tilson from Connecticut about 


as hard-boiled an outfit as you could find, and Mr. Green, he can't 
do a thing." 

Garner's supreme effort came on February 21, when he went to the 
House floor and asked members to deliver a knockout blow to the 
Mellon plan. As he offered his own plan he received another of the 
many remarkable demonstrations the House was always giving him. 
The Democrats, united and aggressive, joined by a substantial number 
of the Republican side, stood, cheered, gave rebel yells and cowboy 
whoops when Garner called the Mellon bill unfair. A farmer, banker, 
trader, legislator and lawyer, he spoke as one who understood the bill 
from, the standpoint of them all. 

On the roll call the House substituted the Garner bill for the Mellon 
bill, 221 to 196. 

In its further journey ings through the House and Senate the bill 
underwent minor transformations and emerged with a 40 per cent 
surtax ceiling, 4 per cent below that advocated by Garner, and 15 
per cent above the Mellon plan. On all essential points Garner had 
won the fight he did not think he could win. 

President Coolidge signed the bill on June 2, with a statement that 
it was not "sound permanent tax policy." 

Garner replied: 

"A policy has been established as to who are going to pay the taxes 
in this country. It will be little changed regardless of which party may 
be in power at any time.'* 

Garner's prominence in the Mellon tax-bill fight brought a boom 
for him as either Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominee on the 
Democratic ticket in 1924. It got no encouragement from him. He 
favored the nomination of William G. McAdoo for President, and was 
elected as a delegate from Texas, pledged to support the former 
Secretary of the Treasury. He was not interested in the Vice-Presidential 
nomination for himself. 

Garner believed firmly that the Democrats were set to return to 
power in 1924. The scandals of the Harding administration had 
shocked the country and the Fordney-McCumber tariff bill was 
unpopular. Garner believed, too, that the Democratic theory of income- 
tax collection had a greater popular appeal than the Republican or 
Mellon plan. 

On the seventh day of the seventeen-day fighting, snarling Madison 
Square Garden convention of 1924, Garner turned his delegate's badge 
over to an alternate and went home. The ninth ballot had convinced 
him the convention was hopelessly deadlocked. 

I met him carrying his own suitcase through the lobby of the 
McAlpin Hotel as he left. He told me he thought the Democratic 
party had signed its own death warrant. It was the first time that the 
proceedings of a Democratic national convention had been broadcast 
and Garner felt that the party was making a spectacle of itself before 
the country. 

"Hell, this convention won't nominate a candidate in a hundred 
ballots/' he said. 

It was an offhand remark and he was merely expressing the hope- 
lessness of the situation. But his careless statement proved accurate. 
John W. Davis of West Virginia was nominated on the I03rd ballot. 

Afterward Garner told me: 

"If we had nominated McAdoo on the first ballot he would, in my 
opinion, have been elected. Smith with a first-ballot nomination would 
not have made as good a race as McAdoo, but he would have had a 
better chance of election in 1924 than he had in 1928. If the Democrats 
had not . disgusted the country in the convention there would have 
been no La Follette-Wheeler ticket. Coolidge was not popular in the 
summer of 1924. His great popularity came after his election that 

A dispirited Democratic minority came back for the short session 
of Congress In December 1924. The Republican margin of eighteen 
in the House had run up to sixty-four in the Coolidge landslide. 
There was no business before Congress other than the regular annual 
appropriation bills. 

On February 15, Garner was stricken with pneumonia. For days 
his condition was critical. The House watched every scrap of news 
from his bedside. On March 4, Representative Luther Johnson, and a 
few other Texas members of Congress went to the hospital and found 
him improved. 

"I know what you fellows think," Garner told his colleagues. "You 
have been thinking you are going to get one of those free trips to 


Texas on a funeral train. Well you are not. I am not going to die and 
do you the favor." 

Johnson went back to the Capitol and took the word to Long- 

Longworth went to the floor of the House and said: 

"There is a great leader of Democracy. I speak of one who has been 
in the valley of the shadow, and nothing ever cheered me more than 
the sure knowledge that he is on the way to safe recovery. I am about 
to violate all precedents of this House, so far as I know, and I do 
not believe the Speaker will call me to order when I ask three cheers 
for Jack Garner. Are you ready?" 

The entire House arose and gave three cheers. Speaker Gillett joined 
in the demonstration of affection. Then Gillett said: 

"This House in time becomes a pretty infallible judge of a mem- 
ber's merit. It learns to appraise motives. It discriminates between the 
modest men who with sincerity are- trying to render service and the 
men who are working only for display and self-advancement. And it 
is refreshing to note that although the home folks may often be 
deceived by the fake statesmen who are always playing to the gallery, 
yet here the sincere and industrious and modest man has his recogni- 
tion and his reward. I would deem the genuine esteem and respect 
and confidence of this body the highest tribute a man could earn." 

In 1924, Garner obtained wide publicity when it was discovered that 
for eight years he had not introduced a bill in the House of Represent- 
atives. Of this the Baltimore Evening Sun said in an editorial: 

"As a statesman Mr. John Nance Garner of Texas has his short- 
comings. But in one respect the Congressman from Texas is unique. 
For eight years he has not introduced a single bill in the House of 
Representatives. Whatever the More Laws Association may think of 
this record, however much the tank towns of the Lone Star State 
may languish without post offices and government buildings, however 
much the contractors may damn him for not giving them the 
opportunity to dredge the upper reaches o some six foot creek, the 
fact remains that the people of the United States owe Mr. Garner a 
debt of gratitude. 

"Mr. Garner has undoubtedly given some thought to the original 

principles of the party of Jefferson. He knows, apparently, that some 
of those principles are set forth in this sentence: 

"That government governs best which governs least.' 

"With that knowledge in hand Mr. Garner has charted his course. 
It is tough on the pork barrel, but it is great stuff for the taxpayers " 

Garner, in fact, introduced only four major bills in his Congressional 
career. They were: 

The income-tax bill, which was eventually made effective by a 
constitutional amendment. 

The currency bill of 1907, features of which were incorporated in the 
Federal Reserve. 

Federal aid to good roads, which was incorporated in the Bankhead 
Federal Aid program in 1916. 

The Public Works program, introduced in 1932, and vetoed by 
President Hoover. 

Speaking of this part of Garner's record, James F. Byrnes, former 
Representative, former Senator, former Supreme Court Justice and 
former Secretary of State, said in a Senate speech in 1941: 

"Others will speak or write of John N. Garner, the Speaker and 
Vice-President. I wish only to refer to John N. Garner, the legislator. 

"I came to the House of Representatives in 1911. I am certain that 
for at least six years thereafter Representative Garner withheld from 
the Congressional Record all remarks made by him on the floor of 
the House. If the historian looks to the bills that have been passed by 
the Congress he will find few bills bearing the name of Mr. Garner. 
He will find that few bills were introduced by him. There is a reason 
for it. Shortly after I came to the House of Representatives, Mr. Garner 
told me that it was his policy to encourage others to introduce bills. It 
was his policy, whenever he had an idea which he believed, if written 
into law, would promote the best interests of the nation, to induce a 
prospective opponent or a doubtful supporter to sponsor the legis- 
lation. When he achieved that, he knew his purpose was accomplished. 

"While the Congressional Record will disclose few speeches made 
by him and few bills introduced by him, those of us who served with 
him know there is hardly a measure of importance which was enacted 
in the last quarter of a century of his service in Washington to which 
John Garner did not effectively contribute. The Congressional Record 


will not show the remarkable influence he exercised upon the members 
of the House and Senate during his long service. He was an efficient 
legislator. He is a great American. As long as honesty, truthfulness 
and courage are appreciated the services of John N. Garner during four 
decades will be held in high regard by the American people." 

From 1926 on, Mr. Garner's interest in the new men in the House 
was heightened. He looked upon an election somewhat as a baseball 
manager looks on a spring training trip, for the development of a new 
Wagner, Cobb or Ruth. Out of the average seventy-five new members, 
brought in by each Congressional election, he looked for two or three 
possible outstanding men. He kept his eye on the new men in the 
back rows. If they turned out to be good legislators he didn't much 
care what party they belonged to. He thought a good line could be 
got on them in their second term. He once told me: 

"The most useful legislator I ever knew was not a member of my 
party. His name was James R. Mann, and he was a Republican from 
Illinois. He was the hardest worker and the most adroit parliamen- 
tarian. But I like to think my party has furnished more good legislators 
than the Republicans. 

"Most times when men sit down around a legislative conference 
table to work out a solution of matters of vital concern to their 
country they forget to what political party they belong. I have often 
urged intelligent compromise in legislation. Congress brings together 
men with that difference in background and diversity of opinion so 
necessary in a Republic. 

"Men who have known how to compromise intelligently have 
rendered great service to their country. The most constructive laws on 
our statute books have been put there by intelligent compromise. That 
does not mean that men have to abandon fundamentals or basic 

Garner got a surprising amount of information on new Demo 
cratic members. When Representative Graham Barden, a new member 
from North Carolina, dropped in to see him, Garner said: 

"I hear you will stand without hitching. I am glad of that. Out in 
my country a cow horse wasn't worth a damn unless he would do that. 
Most of the time there wasn't anything to hitch him too.'* 

Garner was sixty now. His white hair and heavy white eyebrows 


gave him a striking appearance. To a freshman lawmaker in his 
thirties or early forties. Garner was a fabulous figure. He would give 
a new member a word of encouragement by dropping in unexpectedly 
at his office with a greeting: 

"How are you, boy? Are they treating you all right here?" 

He would seldom tarry long enough to sit down. 

Most of the newcomers had heard of his reputation as the canniest 
man in Congress and went to him for advice. He didn't force it on 
anyone but gave it casually and tersely. Garner was never a political 
drudge and had a sovereign recipe on how not to be a mere hack. 

I once heard him tell Representative Lindsay Warren, then a fresh- 
man member from North Carolina, and now Comptroller General of 
the United States: 

"You can't know everything well. Learn one subject thoroughly and 
find out as much as you can about the others. Get useful information 
for members of this House when you are going to speak. You can't 
spend your time better. It's finer recreation than fishing. There is 
nothing so useful or more thrilling than facts. Your colleagues here 
want information and will listen to a man who has knowledge of his 
subject. They ought not to have to give ear time to anyone else." 

Some years before he had made a similar statement to Representative 
Green of Iowa, during a tariff debate: 

"The gentleman from Iowa/' said Garner, "undertakes to master 
every detail of every schedule and every item and every paragraph 
and every amendment in it, so that when it comes to the practical test 
he knows less about the real merits of any particular schedule than 
any man on the floor." 

He told another newcomer, pointing to a newspaperman: 

"That fellow reads all the newspapers. He tries to learn all the fine 
points of his trade. If I was a new member of Congress I'd start 
reading the Congressional Record every day and I would read com- 
mittee reports.'* 

Garner was as approachable as any man in Congress, but his manner 
did not invite familiarity. He was not a first-name caller on short 
acquaintance. The people he called by their first names he had known 
a long time. 


When he began to pick lieutenants he picked them from all sections 
o the country. When Garner's leadership duties began to take up so 
much of his time he looked around for a good figure man for the 
Ways and Means Committee. His choice was Representative Fred 
Vinson of Kentucky, later Chief Justice of the United States. 

"Vinson is a fast man with a stub pencil," he said. "I am a cuff 
figurer. Vinson is more artistic." 

Garner contended that while seniority might bring a man to the 
top in Congress, longevity would not make him a respected leader. 

"In Congress as elsewhere," he told me, "the richest plums go to 
them who help themselves. Self-reliance, energy, sincerity and extra 
effort given ability is the answer to Congressional success." 

To a member of Congress who told him a certain course would give 
him much publicity in his district, Garner said: 

"Of course, trivial and sensational things will get you more publicity 
than significant things. There was a crazy fellow here who had re- 
porters assigned to cover him exclusively." 

Garner's easy informal manner in addressing the House charmed 
new members. In earnest debate he would forego the formal desig- 
nations such as: "The gentleman from New York"; "the gentleman 
from Arkansas"; and "the gentleman from North Carolina"; and 
would address Representative Mills as "Oggie"; Representative Wingo 
as "Otis"; Representative Doughton as "Bob." Sometimes he spoke 
in colloquial language and he admitted at times that his grammar 

Garner never had any trouble finding a way to tell the House 
anything he wished to tell and debate. Rules forbid a member of either 
House or Senate from making derogatory remarks about a member o 
the other body. Once when he wished to speak of the action of certain 
Senators he said: 

"I am now going to speak about 'Congressmen.' When I say Con- 
gressmen' I mean men who serve both at the other end of the Capitol 
and this end. A Congressman is a member of Congress. If you want 
to designate particularly you must say 'a Senator' for a member o the 
Senate and 'a Representative' for a member of the House. Now, I am 
going to talk about 'Congressmen' who do not serve in this House. 
I am satisfied that gentlemen here will understand who is who. 51 

Garner kept up his fight against Mellon fiscal proposals all through 
iie Coolidge administration. Longworth had succeeded Gillett as 
Speaker. The Republicans held a majority of sixty-four in the House 
after Coolidge's election in 1924, and of forty-two after the 1926 Con- 
gressional election. But Garner continued his raiding tactics. In the 
estate-tax fight of 1926, Chairman Green of the Ways and Means 
Committee joined him. 

Garner told the House it was a fair, just and equitable basis of 

"The estate tax is essentially a tax upon wealth," he said. "It operates 
on wealth and ability to pay regardless of geography or state lines. 
It is the question of exercising the right to levy a tax for the transfer of 

Garner carried the House along with him, but the Senate voted its 
repeal. Senate and House conferees went into a tight deadlock. Presi- 
dent Coolidge sent for Speaker Longworth to discuss the possibility 
of the bill's passage with the estate-tax repealer. Longworth took 
Garner with him. 

"I yield to the gentleman I brought along with me/' Longworth 
replied. "He knows more about what is going to happen than I do." 

Coolidge asked Garner for the answer. 

"You want an honest answer of course," Garner replied. "It hasn't 
got as much chance as a snowball in hell." 

Garner used poker terms in telling the House the result of the 
conference with the Senate. He said: 

"From the very nature of things when you go into a conference with 
a body of equal power in enacting legislation you must take into 
consideration their viewpoint as well as your own. In coming to an 
agreement you must yield something on your side or else lay down 
the proposition wholly that the other body shall take the House 
provisions as a whole or they will have no law. The House conferees 
did not do that as to all amendments, but in the course of the con- 
ference they did do that in reference to one amendment, which was 
that on the estate tax. 

"Your conferees with all the earnestness of their souls endeavored 
to reach an agreement. I wish I could have preserved in some way the 
facial expression of the gentleman from Iowa, Mr. Green, on one or 

two occasions, because it seemed to break his heart to give in. I would 
urge him to stay and he would stick but they would come around 
to the same point and say : 'Gentlemen, we have done this and we have 
done that, and we have done the other' but when we came down to the 
estate tax finally, they made all kinds of propositions. 

"We finally set the hand down and saidand I think I made the 
statement 'Gentlemen there are 205 amendments in the bill; you can 
yield on 204 and then leave the estate tax for us to yield on, but in 
such case there will never be a bill, because we are going to have that 
estate tax in the law or this bill will never become law/ " 

The Senate yielded. 

On other than fiscal legislation, Coolidge and Garner got along 
excellently. Coolidge especially pleased him with the Russian statement 
in his first message to Congress in December 1923. Garner was strongly 
opposed to recognition of the Lenin-Trotsky regime. In the face of 
strong agitation for Russian recognition, Coolidge told Congress that 
the United States did not propose "to enter into relations with another 
regime which refuses to recognize the sanctity of international obliga- 
tions" or to "barter away for the privilege of trade any o the cherished 
rights of humanity." 

"Whenever/ 5 Coolidge said, "there appears any disposition to com- 
pensate our citizens who were despoiled, and to recognize that debt 
contracted with our government, not by the Czar but by the newly 
formed Republic of Russia; whenever the active spirit of enmity to 
our institutions is abated; whenever there appears work meet for 
repentance our country ought to be the first to go to the economic 
and moral rescue of Russia." 

O his personal relations with Coolidge, Garner said: 

"President Coolidge was very kind to me. I liked to have breakfast 
with him. He would invite Longworth and me down. I was never late 
and Nick was never on time. I had nice visits with him while waiting 
for Nick to arrive. Sometimes he was humorously taciturn and some- 
times he was garrulous. Coolidge was no innovator, but he suited the 
mood of the country at the time he served. He seemed to have an 
unerring judgement of people. He could spot a gold-bricker quicker 
than anyone I ever saw." 


But Garner said the helpings at the Coolidge table were not over- 
generous and sometimes left him hungry. He said once: 

"The sausages Coolidge serves .on the White House table are the 
smallest I ever saw." 

The Coolidge breakfasts came a couple of hours after Garner's 
breakfast time. He got up at six o'clock in the morning both in 
Washington and in Texas. He liked his meals finished before seven 
o'clock. And he ate a generous breakfast. It usually consisted of fruit 
and one or two lamb chops. 

Garner's fight for the retention of the federal estate tax brought him 
strongly financed opposition in 1928. The money. Gamer charged, 
came from outside his district. A similar fight was made against 
Republican Chairman Green of the House Ways and Means Com- 
mittee, in his Iowa district. Both were re-elected. 

Sid Hardin, Garner's defeated opponent in the primaries, made 
charges of irregularities. Garner demanded the charges be investigated. 

"If any evidences of irregularity are produced against me I will 
resign," he said. 

A House committee went to Texas to probe the charges. While the 
committee was sitting at McAllen, Representative Carl R. Chind- 
blom of Illinois, a Republican member of the committee, said : 

"I am a member of the Ways and Means Committee. I sit on the 
Republican side of this committee, and Mr. Garner sits on the Demo- 
cratic side. I wish to state here that if this investigation committee 
should find the slightest evidence reflecting on Mr. Garner, the entire 
House of Representatives would be the most astounded body in the 

Hardin admitted he had no evidence and the case collapsed. 

Garner now was to come into undisputed possession of the House 

Representative Finis J. Garrett announced his retirement to run 
for Senator from Tennessee. Twice Garner's friends had urged him 
to run for the leadership. He declined. He knew that Garrett had 
stanch friends, too, who would resent such action. He had felt that 
Garrett eventually would seek the Tennessee Senatorship and he pre- 
ferred to wait for that instead of causing a breach in the Democratic 


Garner, all during Garrett's tenure as minority leader, had been 
ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee and chairman o 
the Democratic Committee on Committees which chose all Democratic 
committee members. He would now be the Democratic nominee for 
Speaker, would be defeated and would then assume full leadership 
of the Democrats in the House. 


Side Room Educator 

ON APRIL 15, 1929, Nicholas Long-worth routed John N. 
Garner for Speaker of the House in a landslide o similar 
proportions to that by which Herbert Hoover had defeated 
Alfred E. Smith in the preceding November. The vote was Longworth 
267, Garner 164. The Republican majority of 104 in the House had been 
exceeded only twice during Garner's service after the sweeps of 
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 and of Warren G. Harding in 1920. 

Garner escorted Longworth to the chair and introduced him to the 
House as "one of the most impartial and fair presiding officers that 
ever occupied this exalted position. He is beloved by the entire 
membership of this House regardless of political affiliation. He is a 
great statesman, a real outstanding American." 

Longworth replying, said: 

"I have just been presented to the House as its presiding officer by 
a man who received the unanimous vote of his party for Speaker, 
thereby carrying with it as a necessary incident his elevation to the 
leadership of the Democratic party in the House. I congratulate 
you members seated on the east side of the aisle in your choice. The 
gentleman from Texas and I entered Congress together twenty-six 
years ago. That he is a better man than I, in the estimation of his 
constituents, is made clear by the fact that his service has been con- 
tinuous, whereas mine was interrupted by a vacation of two years, by 
no means of my own motion. During all these years our friendship 
has been continuously abiding, and our affection, esteem and respect 
the one for the other is and has been, I am proud to say, mutual. 

"Many years ago a distinguished Senator from my state, Senator 
Foraker, coined a phrase exemplifying the activities and future of his 


party. It was this: 'Vim, vigor, victory.' Under the leadership of the 
gentleman from Texas I formally guarantee you the first two." 

The House Democrats, when Garner assumed the leadership, were 
torn as an aftermath of the preceding Presidential campaign. But 
that was only part of the party's woe. Its representation in the Senate, 
in the State Houses and even in the courthouses of the nation was at 
the vanishing point. The Republicans not only made close to a 
clean sweep north of the Mason-Dixon line but also carried four solid 
south states. 

That Garner, who had supported Smith enthusiastically in the 
Presidential campaign, was the man best equipped to unify and get 
out of his party in the House everything it had in it was rather 
generally agreed. As Clinton W. Gilbert had said of him in Collier's 
a few weeks before: 

"Retirement of Finis Garrett of Tennessee makes John N. Garner 
of Texas floor leader of the Democrats in the lower chamber and 
Jack Garner comes very near to being the best all-around member 
of the House. 

"He does not excel in any one quality except, perhaps that of being 
the best politician on either side. But he has more of the qualities that 
go to make the ideal member than anyone who has been in the House 
since Uncle Joe Cannon was in his prime. 

"That does not mean that Garner is at all like 'Uncle Joe, who in 
striped trousers and a plug hat might have sat in for the long, lean, 
shrewd Uncle Sam of a generation ago. The time of Uncle Joe 
Cannon is past. 

"But Jack Garner has a touch of the frontier about him; of a 
frontier that is conquered by tractors and dynamite and oil derricks. 
Onion grower and goat raiser, he has wrestled with the soil of Texas, 
He had experienced life in direct contacts. He knows men and speaks 
their language. 

"There is no member of the House on whose level he has not been 
and whose language he does not speak. He is a common man who has 
made his own money and is not stuck up about his wealth. He looks, 
with his ruddy face and bristling gray hair, a little rough, quite 
obviously of the first generation. That's a great advantage in Congress; 
the members like to feel that the leader is one of their own kind. 


"He has what few men who have made their pile havethe energy 
to start off on a new career. Most men have only one career in them, 
but perhaps Jack has several. He is as fresh at fifty-nine as he was at 
twenty. At any rate, it is inconceivable that anyone could at any time 
have been any fuller of energy and gusto than he is now. And energy 
Is a wonderful quality; it is the great human magnet. 

"All his forces are in action at once. He speaks a torrent of words; 
he works himself into a passion. He is intuitive and sees things that 
other men do not see. He senses ideas as they are generating and is 
aware of situations before they have formed. 

"His capacity for friendship gives him an understanding of what 
is going on in the enemy's camp. He is a master of the wires that 
center in the cloakroom." 

Within a week after Garner became minority leader, Capitol in- 
siders began to hear of a room in the Capitol where the Speaker and 
the minority leader were holding momentous conferences and dis- 
cussing the business of the new session of Congress. It finally became 
known as the "Board of Education" and thus was written into the 
history of the Capitol. 

It really was the third on the list of the Longworth-Garner get- 
together places. The first was the "Daniel Webster room," a room in 
the Capitol catacombs to which reputedly the great Massachusetts 
Senator at times had repaired when under the weather and there slept 
until he felt better. 

I personally knew something about this room. To it Messrs. Garner 
and Longworth invited some of their congressional colleagues and 
gave for me a farewell when I was leaving to go into the First World 

Later there was a place known as the "Cabinet Room." It was a 
room on the third floor of the old House office building. Its furnishings 
consisted of a roll-top desk, a few chairs and a long table piled up with 
daily and country weekly newspapers from Garner's district. The 
roll-top desk contained liquor. A faucet supplied what Garner called 
"branch water." 

Longworth was elected to honorary membership of this Democratic 
"club" and paid it frequent visits. When Garner became Democratic 
leader there were too many callers to enable the "Cabinet" to assemble 


The 1930 election was so close the question of whether Demo- 
crats or Republicans would organize the House of Representa- 
tives was not decided until months later. Garner's political foe 
and personal friend, Nicholas Longworth, had died in the mean- 
time and Garner succeeded him as Speaker. (C, K. Berryman, 
Washington Star) 

in peace. The same was true of Longworth's office. So they obtained 
the hideaway which first was whispered about as "the sanctum 
sanctorum." But because it soon became known that Longworth and 
Garner were conducting a school which taught, among other things, 
the disadvantages of legislative deadlocks and filibusters and gave fine 
points in the maneuverability of legislation, Representative John 
McDuffie of Alabama gave it the name of "Board of Education." 
Only men devoted to one another and each devoted to the principles 
of his party could have met on such terms. The Longworth-Garner 
friendship in length of durability was perhaps the most famous o 
Congressional history. Walter Chamblin, Jr., chief of the Associated 

Press House staff and the principal historian of the Board of Edu- 
cation recalled that Andrew Jackson, Garner's idol, formed a similar 
friendship with the rich and cultured Henry Livinston of New York, 
but neither was a prominent member; both left the House after short 

Sessions of the Board of Education usually started at four-thirty or 
five in the afternoon and lasted until six. They usually opened with 
a charge by Garner that the Republican organization was using steam- 
roller tactics to crush the Democratic organization and a quarrel. 
Then the legislative business at hand was discussed. Other members 
interested in the pending legislation would be called in and heard, 
usually briefly. 

The couth Longworth had a fastidious distaste for detail. 

Garner also wanted a quick summing-up. He would Say: 

"Hell, don't tell me what the bill Says. Tell me what it does." 

When an understanding was reached it was a precise one. Neither 
the Texan nor the Ohioan would tolerate anything* hazy or vague 
and there was never the slightest variation in the agreement between 
the two. 

Neither Garner nor Longworth believed a newspaperman would 
violate a confidence. They transacted highly important business before 
Chamblin as well as Paul Mallon of the United Press, William S. Neal 
of the International News Service and others. 

The first time I ever entered the Board of Education-, Garner was 
unlocking it to go in. It had a few chairs, a davenport, a big round 
mahogany table and a huge gold-encased mirror. 

"What's up?" I asked. 

"Oh, the Republicans have cooked up another nefarious scheme 
and I am going to try to talk Nick out of it and save the people a few 
of their liberties," he replied. 

Inside, Longworth called Garner a "one man cabal" bent on 
hampering legislation. Garner replied in kind. 

Many members, especially those who had not been in Congress long, 
heard all sorts of rumors about what went on behind closed doors of 
the Board room. Some Republicans thought that Garner got the best 
of Longworth. On the other hand, some Democrats felt that Long- 
worth got the best of Garner. The truth is that neither really put 
anything over on the other. 

In the days of both the "Cabinet" and the Board o Education it 
must be remembered Longworth always had a Republican majority 
at his back. This majority, except for a few things such as tie 
McNary-Haugen farm relief bill and the Mellon tax plan, seldom 
wavered in loyalty. Longworth would often urge Garner, not to use 
legislative stratagems to tie up bills. Garner would agree sometimes s 
usually after having wangled in return something of benefit to the 
Democrats. These sessions with their ultimate understandings made 
for efficient legislation in the large and unwieldy House and thereby 
benefited the country generally. Most matters between the parties 
could not be settled by the Board of Education. Neither Longworth 
nor Garner had any idea of back-alley trading. They merely sought to 
expedite matters. 

The only argument between Garner and Longworth, I remember 
witnessing was in the days of the "Cabinet." J. P. Morgan had given 
his London residence at 14 Princess Gate, on Hyde Park, for an 
Embassy residence. It was valued at from $250,000 to $300,000 and an 
appropriation of $150,000 was asked of Congress for repairs. Garner 
attacked the proposal on. the floor and said it might be a violation o 
the Lowden act which restricted the cost of embassies to $150,000. 

"It does not seem to be very good public policy on our part to accept 
as a gift from some wealthy American a property for an embassy 
and then appropriate $150,000 or $200,000 or $300,000 to fix up that 
building for an embassy. I do not believe the American people want 
Congress to indulge in such performances." 

Longworth favored acceptance of the London gift and was anxious 
that this country own all its embassies abroad. In the "Cabinet'* Garner 
called the London offer a "white elephant." Longworth said Garner 
wanted ambassadors to live in "dugouts." 

Afterward, I asked Longworth how the argument had come out- 

"Oh, we got that settled," he replied, "and are working on one in 
South America now. We're deadlocked on the plumbing. I want 
running water and he is holding out for bowls and pitchers." 

In reality, they had talked the matter of homes for ministers and 
ambassadors since they served on the Foreign Affairs Committee. 
Garner alluded to it in a discussion of Longworth. He said: 

"Being able to analyze any problem with sound logical reason and 
then having the courage to maintain your position is evidence o 


wisdom and character. Mr. Longworth had both. He succeeded in 
preserving the chemical industry of this country, early in the war, 
by his masterly handling o the legislation. We have frequent fights 
about foreign embassies but he changed my opinion on that legislation 
and won me around to his way of thinking." 

The country had prohibition when the Board of Education func- 
tioned. If a drink was taken at the end of a meeting it was called 
"striking a blow for liberty." Longworth would then take Garner to 
his hotel residence in the Speaker's car, which Garner called "our 
car." On the way to the Capitol in the morning Longworth would 
stop by Garner's hotel and pick up his political adversary. 

The Board of Education granted an affiliation to an eating auxiliary 
known as the La Guardia-Boylan Spaghetti Association, a joint 
enterprise of Representatives Fiorello H. La Guardia, Republican, and 
John J. Boylan, Democrat, of New York, and often Longworth, 
Garner and others would attend the spaghetti parties. 

At one of their first meetings in the Board of Education Garner 
told Longworth that the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, then under con- 
sideration in the House, would beat the Republicans in the 1930 
Congressional elections and that he would consequently defeat Long- 
worth for Speaker. 

"Put a ring around that date, December 7, 1931, if you have a 
calendar that far ahead. That is about the date when the next Congress 
meets. You'd better let me use the car with you. You'll want me to 
let you ride when it is mine." 

The Smoot-Hawley tariff bill would be the seventh general revision 
since Gamer had become of voting age. There had been the McKinley 
bill of 1890, the Wilson-Gorman bill of 1893, the Dingley bill of 1897, 
the Payne-Aldrich bill of 1909, the Underwood bill of 1913 and tie 
Fordney-McCumber bill of 1922. In three of them he had participated 
as a member of Congress. 

Garner said he felt about another tariff bill like Underwood's 
cobbler. He related the anecdote told by Senator Oscar W. Underwood, 
who participated in four tariff revisions, beginning with the Dingley 

"Down in Kentucky there was a cobbler who unexpectedly inherited 
a large sum of money. He locked up his shop and went out in search of 

pleasure In all sorts of wild dissipation. Finally he spent all his money 
and returned to his humble cobbler's bench. Not long afterward a 
lawyer went to the shop and informed the cobbler that he had 
inherited another fortune. He looked up from his bench and said: 
c My God! must I go through all that again?' And that is the way I 
feel about another tariff bill." 

Garner stated the Democratic tariff position in a radio speech 
in April. He opposed future general revisions. For future dealing with 
the tariff he proposed a fact-finding tariff commission and revision o 
any tariff bill at any time when facts showed it justified. 

The sociability and joviality between Longworth and Garner did 
not extend to the House floor. This fact was demonstrated on May 
7 when Garner opened his attack on the tariff bill by accusing Long- 
worth and Majority Leader Tilson of "quaking in their boots, fearful 
of the tremendous power they have on their own side, afraid you 
cannot wield or control it. With a majority of 104 in the House you 
would deprive a minority of only 163 members opportunity o 
offering amendments." 

When the House took up the bill under strict rules prohibiting 
amendments, Garner went to the floor with a speech intended item 
by item to show its cost to the consumer. 

"Striking direct at the werkingman, the farmer, and the small 
businessman the real foundation upon which American progress 
and prosperity has been established the Hawley-Smoot tariff,"* said 
Mr. Garner ? "places an unjust and unnecessary burden of hundreds 
of millions of dollars annually upon those already overburdened by 
the gradual development of a tariff system which extends special favors 
to the few at the expense of the masses. 

"No greater fraud was ever perpetrated upon the American people 
than the claim of proponents of the Hawley-Smoot bill that it is 
designed c to protect American Labor/ a statement which the Re- 
publican members of the Ways and Means Committee had the 
audacity to insert in the title of the bill. Its real purpose is to exploit, 
not to protect, and the millions of American workingmen^ as well as 
the farmers and businessmen, are the targets against whom these shafts 
of tariff exploitation are aimed. 

* Cong. Record, June 6, 1930. P. 10665. 

"It is extremely unfortunate that the average individual does not 
have the time or the information at hand to ascertain with any degree 
of accuracy how he will be affected personally. An excessive tariff can 
be classified as an intangible tax which reverts to the protected Interests 
Instead of the government. The formulation of a tariff bill has de- 
veloped into a wild scramble on the part of many selfish interests to 
secure the assent of Congress to the imposition of indefensible burdens 
upon the consumers. The consumer has no definite knowledge of how 
hard he is hit by this Intangible tax. He cannot ascertain the pro- 
duction costs on the articles he buys nor the cost of distribution. In a 
vague way he knows that the costs of the necessaries of life are 
constandy mounting; that the already swollen fortunes of those favored 
by excessive tariff rates are expanding; but he pays the extor donate 
prices created by these indefensible rates and merely utters ineffectual 
protest against the system which has placed an intangible and un- 
reasonable tax upon practically every necessity of life. 

"Almost every article the average American citizen wears, eats or 
uses In his daily routine carries the tariff tax. Awake or asleep he Is 
constantly adding to the profits of those Interests which are granted 
a special dispensation through the tariff to exploit him. . . ." 

Garner then proceeded with a speech that was for him uncommonly 
long. In which he outlined the story of an American family from 
morning to night of a normal working day, showing that almost 
everything the family ate, wore or used was subject to a tariff tax. 
His mastery of tariff schedules was demonstrated in this speech by his 
quoting extemporaneously at least sixty-seven specific rates on articles 
In common use, such as soap, rugs, razors, shirts, brooms, hats, cement, 
linoleum, socks, oatmeal, brushes, silverware, china and tombstones. 

Where Representative Sereno Payne of New York had been Garner's 
chief adversary in the Underwood tariff fight of 1913 and Represent- 
ative Joseph Fordney of Michigan, in the Fordney-McCumber bill of 
1921-1922, this time most of his floor exchanges were with Represent- 
ative Allen Treadway of Massachusetts. 

Treadway, a huge, barrel-chested man, had a very large head. He 
wore a number eight hat. In a bellowing voice he attacked Garner, 
called him a low-tariff man in everything except mohair. 

At the end of Treadway's one-hour speech, Garner asked for one 
minute to reply. He said: 

"The gentleman from Massachusetts has the biggest hood, the loudest 
horn and the least horsepower of any machine I ever saw." 

Garner continued to fight the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill during its 
fourteen-months-long journey through Congress. He moved to re- 
commit it and then voted against its passage. He left no such imprints 
on the legislation as he had on the Fordney-McCumber bill. But when 
President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley bill on June 17, 1930, 
Garner was sure the Democrats had a first-class issue for the 1930 
Congressional campaign. 

The depression continued to deepen. Garner's first move, intended 
to put money into circulation, was the introduction on January 5, 19313 
of a bill proposing to pay veterans of the First World War the cash 
surrender value of their adjusted compensation certificates. There 
were $1,250,000,000 of these outstanding, payable in 1945. 

In a House speech he said that the soldiers needed the money and 
that this amount of money put into circulation in depression times 
would be of benefit to everyone. 

"By giving the soldier the option of cashing his insurance certificates 
now instead of waiting until 1945, you would be saving the govern- 
ment not less than $300,000,000," Garner said. "I believe if all these 
settlements were made at one time the savings to the government 
might run as high as $500,000,000 .and you would be giving the soldier 
a cash settlement at this time when he needs it. 

"The soldier was allowed a certain sum based on his service. Instead 
of paying him cash, Congress decided to issue these insurance certifi- 
cates. What I have proposed is a fair settlement between the taxpayers 
and the soldiers. I think you ought to settle on a sensible basis and 
do it while it will benefit the country economically and thereby avoid 
a more difficult problem in the future when money rates will be 
higher. They are now lower than anywhere in the world, and money 
is cheaper than ever in the history of any people. You can settle these 
matters now and at the same time improve the economic conditions of 
the country." 

His bill was shelved. 

The most widespread drought of American, history added itself to 

depression In 1930, and the unhappy country went still deeper into 
distress. Twenty-four states, including all the Southern states, the great 
food-producing states of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Vir- 
ginia and Pennsylvania and the Northwestern states of South Dakota, 
Wyoming, Montana and Washington, were the principal sufferers. 

A Republican-sponsored measure proposed an appropriation of $30,- 
000,000 out of which individual farmers would be permitted to borrow 
up to $300 each for the purchase of seed for a 1931 crop, fertilizer and 
feed for work stock. 

Garner urged that the bill be amended to allow the purchase of 
human food also. Republicans, however, refused to thus enlarge the 
scope of the bill and reported it under a rule barring amendments. 

Garner went to the floor and castigated the Republican leadership 
for passing such legislation under "gag rule." In the debate he gave 
his position on relief, an issue which was to occupy the attention of 
the country for the next eight years. 

"Speaking for myself alone, if it ever comes to a point that starving 
people must be taken care of, I will help take care of them if and 
when absolutely necessary out of the Treasury of the United States," 
he said. "It is unconscionable to think that you may picture a situation 
where a large percentage of the people of this country are starving 
and that we, as members of Congress, cannot find a sound economic 
policy that will help them out of the Treasury of the United States." 

Garner, who had never contemplated such a thing as deficit financ- 
ing, then gave his formula for raising money for relief. 

"I will tell you what I can do, and I am giving you the figures of 
the Treasury Department and not my own figures," he said. "If neces- 
sary, I would increase the surtax on individual incomes of over $100,- 
ooo, 5 per cent and get |io8 3 ooo,ooo. Every man and woman in this 
country who has an income in excess of $100,000 ought to be willing, 
temporarily, at a time like this, to contribute something to help take 
care of the poor. A 5 per cent increase in surtax on incomes over 
$100,000, would produce over $ 100,000,000 to the Treasury of the 
United States, for feeding the poor of the country. It would take no 
complicated legislation. It can be done in a resolution of six lines. Do 
you tell me, sir, that there is something in your conscience, something 
in the Constitution that would prohibit you from exercising your 

right in this House to collect that money, if need be, to use in feeding 
the poor of your city and your state? 

"The Democratic party I believe, will never tolerate human suf- 
fering in this country when we can relieve it. Picture the plight of the 
poor man that borrows $300 yes; he borrows $300 and puts it in the 
bank. It is placed to his credit to buy stock, feed, grain and fertilizer 
for his farm. He has not a particle of food in his house. He has a wife 
and children, and in order to get food for them he must go to the 
Red Cross. The Red Cross replies, 'you have $300 in the bank.' He 
says, 'no; I cannot use that for food. My mules are fat. My grain is 
here to plant. Here is feed for the stock, but my children are suffering. 
I must have food.' 

"The resulc is, you say, you cannot give it to him. Why, gentlemen, 
that is ridiculous. You make a fraud out of that farmer. You cannot 
tell me human nature is such that if that man is loaned $300, for grain, 
fertilizer and feed for his stock he will not use it for his children. You 
cannot go against human nature, and the natural thing is for that man 
to feed his family. You make a fraud out of him by telling him that 
you will loan him $300, but he must put it in his bank and that he 
cannot use any of it for his suffering children. You are just making 
a liar out of him, because he must and will take care of his family first 
and the prime purpose of borrowing that money is to protect his family 
for the next year." 

The big Republican majority of 104 voted Garner down again, but 
it would be the last time. 

The result of the 1930 Congressional election was so close that it 
was evident that deaths before the beginning of the next session of 
Congress might determine whether Democrats or Republicans con- 

From Cincinnati, Longworth sent a jocular query to Garner. 

"Whose car is it?" 

During the winter session of Congress they continued to joke about 
who would get possession of the Speaker's automobile. It was still a 
moot question on March 4, when Congress adjourned until December, 

At the adjournment hour. Speaker Longworth addressed Congress 
for the last time. The members arose in a great demonstration for the 
presiding officer. Longworth said: 


^'Perhaps this is the last time I will address you from this rostrum. 
1 do not mean to Insinuate that 1 regard it as a probability, but I must 
admit it as a possibility. The decision lies with none of us here. It is a 
decision that lies with an All- Wise Providence. It is only an All-Wise 
Providence who Is going to determine which o the great political 
parties will organize the next House of Representatives. 

"With whatever Providence may decree, I am abundantly satisfied. 
I ought to be, for but three Speakers of the House In all history will 
have had a longer term of consecutive service than I have had. I have 
esteemed every hour here during my service of six years, without one 
single exception. If I am to retire from office, I do so with profound 
gratitude to my colleagues, not so much for elevating me to this, the 
greatest legislative office In any legislative branch in any government 
of the world, but more for the evidence of esteem aad confidence you 
have had in me." 

Longworth, although suffering from a severe cold, took part in the 
vaudeville performance on the floor of the House after adjournment. 
A piano was brought in and the entertainment lasted for an hour. 

It was brought to a close with Representative Clifton Woodrum of 
Virgina singing "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny," with Longworth 
playing the piano accompaniment. 

When Longworth's cold hung on he went to Aiken, South Carolina, 
in an effort to recover from it. On April 6, he took to bed. Three days 
later he was dead of lobar pneumonia. 

At Uvalde, Garner, his chief political foe and most intimate per- 
sonal friend, said: 

"I have lost one of the best friends of a lifetime. I knew him as a 
man and as a legislator and he was the best type of each. His states- 
manship was of the highest order. He was honest and courageous and 
loved his country." 


Mr. Speaker 

JOHNNY, Washington wants you on the telephone." 
The messenger was Ross Brumfield, the only man who ever 
called the future Speaker and Vice-President "Johnny." 
It was a peaceful afternoon in Uvalde in October 1931. Garner 
was examining his chuck box; he was preparing to leave on a fishing 
trip with Brumfield. They had been outdoor companions for twenty 
years. Whatever the season of the year when Garner got home from a 
session of Congress he and Brumfield made an excursion to the wild 
brush country near the Mexican border. On these outings Garner was 
the camp cook. He prided himself on his culinary accomplishments 
even more than on his fishing prowess. "Cowboy stew" was his spe- 
cialty and he was painstakingly examining the contents of the chuck 
box to see that he had all the ingredients of his favorite camping dish. 

Garner wanted especially to take this camping trip. He couldn't 
leave on the last train that would get him to Washington before Con- 
gress convened as he had usually done. There had been fourteen 
deaths of Representatives since the last election, an unusually large 
number. Garner would either beat Representative Bertrand H. Snell 
for Speaker or if Snell won, Garner would lead a minority of almost 
equal size to SnelPs majority. Special elections would decide which 
way it would be. If chosen Speaker, he would be the highest elected 
Democrat in the nation and the field marshal of his party's legislative 
forces. The depression was nearly two years old and deepening. He 
would have to go to Washington early this time. 

Garner never liked to talk on the telephone. Long-distance calls* 
especially, he never accepted when he could avoid it. 

Another messenger came with more definite information. President 
Hoover was on the wire. 

Hoover's voice was grave. For days he had been talking to long- 
faced plenipotentiaries. England, France, Italy and other Allied debtors 
were seeking postponement on the interest charges on their war and 
reconstruction debts to the United States. They had told the President 
of dire things that would happen to their countries if forced to make 
these interest payments. In fact, they said, they just couldn't make 

Hoover was convinced that a moratorium was necessary that the 
Interest would have to be waived for a time at least. He asked Garner 
if he could be in Washington for a meeting of Congress leaders and 
other high officials the following night. Garner could if an airplane 
was available. Hoover told him one would be dispatched to Kelly Field 
at San Antonio. 

Garner went back and told Bramfield to unpack the camping out- 
fit. Early the next morning he entered an open-cockpit two-man plane 
at Kelly Field and that evening was in Washington. It was his first 
airplane flight. He arrived beaming. A dozen newspapermen met him 
at the Washington airport. He was the key man in whatever negotia- 
tion took place at the White House. He was the nation's top Democrat 
now and he had a united party in the House of Representatives be- 
hind him. Hoover was the top Republican and his party was divided. 

Garner stepped from the plane. He would answer no questions. He 
was going to make no premature statement. As he parried questions 
he accidentally pulled from his pocket a piece of paper. It was a note 
Mrs. Garner had put there without his knowledge. It read: 

"The spirit of the Lord watches over you and keeps you in perfect 
safety. His Spirit is guiding, protecting and inspiring you in all your 

Garner went to the White House for what might be the most mo- 
mentous decision for his country, his party and himself he had ever 
had to make. The President, worn and tired, did his best to smile. 
Month after month the worries of the depression had added years to 
his face. 

Hoover made a stout argument for a moratorium. He felt that de- 
pressed world conditions made this inevitable. Garner took issue with 
the Chief Executive. Garner had sat in the Ways and Means Commit- 
tee when the recommendations came in from the Debt Commission, 

^^^s^Sg^/K r^>;^U; 



When the votes were rounded up in the 1931 Speakership 
contest there were three more Democrats than Republicans and 
Garner was elected Speaker. (C. K. Berryman, Washington 

scaling down the foreign debts. He had voted against every one of 
these proposals. Especially did he oppose the English and French re- 
funding schemes because he believed these countries had the ability 
to pay. A moratorium he regarded as likely to be an effective cancella- 
tion. Hoover was adamant. All the Republican leaders stood with 
Hoover, except Senator Borah, chairman of the powerful Foreign 
Relations Committee. He teamed with Garner. Secretary of State 
Stimson, Secretary of the Treasury Mellon and Under Secretary 
Ogden Mills backed up Hoover strongly. In the end, Garner said that 
if the Democrats should organize the House and he became Speaker, 
he would not oppose the foreign policy of the Administration. Since 
unable to convince, he would not obstruct. 

Conditions with worldwide depression and its multitudinous ills, he 
felt, challenged more than Republican and Democratic principles; 
they went to the foundations of representative government. Hoover 
had two more years of his constitutional term to serve. Even if the 
Democrats organized the House, the Senate was still Republican. 
Never in peacetime had the nation faced a crisis that demanded more 
nonpartisan and patriotic action. 

Garner returned to Texas for a very short stay. He never made the 
fishing trip. Instead, he sat down and attempted something he had 
never before tried. He started writing a speech. In all his career Gar- 
ner's House speeches had been extemporaneous. He believed at the 
time that the Democrats would barely fail to organize the House, that 
the Republicans would control it and that he would be minority leader. 

Garner arrived in Washington on November n and in an interview 
stressed the necessity of maintaining the financial integrity of the 
country. The Speakership was still unsettled. Representative Harry M. 
Wurzbach, the only Republican member of Congress from Texas, was 
among those who had died. The district had gone Republican six 
straight times. On the outcome in this district probably hung the 
Speakership. In the special election late in November, Richard M. 
Kleberg, a Democrat, won-. The Speakership for Garner now seemed 

On December 7, 1931, Garner was elected the thirty-ninth Speaker 
of the House of Representatives by three votes. One of his majority 
came into the House chamber on a stretcher. Two more came in 
wheelchairs. Never in modern times had there been so close a division 
between the two parties in the House. If one or two members stayed 
away or a Tammany Congressman took too long a week end. Garner 
had no physical majority present on the floor. 

Representative Snell, his defeated opponent, introduced Garner to 
the House. 

"The gentleman from Texas," Snell said, "by native ability, by out- 
standing personality, by long service and a complete understanding 
of the duties and responsibilities, is exceptionally well qualified to 
fill that position and I predict he will make one of the great Speakers 
of the generation. I congratulate him on having reached the goal of 
his ambition." 


Garner, replying, after expressing his thanks for the support given 
him, said: 

"It is customary for a member assuming this place to indulge in some 
promises as to what he hopes to do as your presiding officer. I made 
no promises to secure this preferment, and I make none now. 

"The oath of office I am about to take carries with it the only promise 
it is necessary for any American citizen to make, to assure the country 
that he expects to devote his best efforts to its service. That oath of 
office I am ready to take at the present moment and I ask the gentle- 
man from North Carolina, Mr. Pou, to administer it." 

Democrats flocked to the Capitol to congratulate Garner on his 
election as Speaker. It was the first time in ten years the Democrats 
had controlled any branch of government. 

One incident of the day revealed how little any of us realized what 
was ahead of the world. Representative Kleberg of Texas was sitting 
in the Speaker's outer office when I came in. He was reading a syn- 
dicated article written and signed by Adolf Hitler, in The New 
YorJ^ Times. 

On it was the headline: 



Kleberg casually remarked: 

"I wonder what this fellow is going to do?" 

After the organization of the House, Garner still faced the necessity 
o keeping a quorum. Tammany and other city Democrats always took 
a long week end. A late train could be fatal to a roll call. Monday 
morning was the dangerous time. If Snell should attempt some sort 
of a coup with the majority of the New York delegation away, it would 
sink the Democrats. Tammany Leader Curry promised to- keep the 
New Yorkers on the job. There were negotiations with the Pennsyl- 
vania Railroad and it put on a special Monday morning train, the 
Legislator. It ran only one day a week and it got to Washington 
well before the noon meeting hour of Congress. Members o Congress 
and week-end visitors returning from New York made it pay. 

There was still the risk that the Democrats could fail to keep a 
physical majority on the floor. Garner was up against the greatest test 

of his lifetime, to keep that slim superiority control o the House 
and put though legislation. It required all his trading ability. It was a 
day by day intricate process o compromising and balancing force 
against force to maintain a lead In the House. 

Garner formed an alliance with Representative Fiorello H. La 
Guardia on some legislative matters. The man who was afterward 
to be three times Mayor of New York supported most of Garner's 
legislative proposals from 1931 to 1933. Garner either could not 
pronounce or could not remember La Guardia's first name. To 
La Guardia's great amusement Garner called him "Frijole/ 5 Mexican 
name for bean. 

"Prijole had about fifteen votes In his group," Garner said. "He 
never made a promise he couldn't keep. He never overestimated the 
number of votes he could deliver on a roll call I always knew just how 
many votes he would bring in." 

Thus reinforced, he went into the 222-day session of Congress which 
authorized the government's great credit machine, the Reconstruction 
Finance Corporation, budget balancing and other controversial legis- 

Garner took the majority leadership to the Speaker's chair with him, 
although the title went to Representative Henry T. Rainey. Rainey 
possessed none of the qualities of leadership. In addition, he was 
"loose-jawed." He gave out a particularly unwise statement on taxes 
and Garner found it necessary to tell the country Rainey was speaking 
only for himself and not the party. 

Garner himself was more cautious of utterance than Calvin Coolidge 
had ever been. Longworth had never had press conferences. Garner 
met the press punctually at eleven forty-five. But he gave out no 
premature Information. He would not mislead the press. When they 
asked him a question he did not want to answer he would say: 

"You can speculate all you want to. I have nothing to say." 

Sometimes the Garner conferences were very lively affairs. Once 
when he was vigorously explaining a legislative matter and trying to 
light his ever present cigar at the same time, his hair caught on fire and 
a newsman extinguished It. 

He recreated the Board of Education but it was a Democratic show 
j although Bert Snell came in regularly. But usually those who 

gathered there were Collier, chairman of the Ways and Means Com- 
mittee and Crisp, second man on the committee; Bankhead and 
McDuffie of Alabama; Byrns of Tennessee; Warren of North Carolina; 
Milligan o Missouri; Woodrum of Virginia; Prall of New York; and 
Rayburn of Texas. 

President Hoover believed that the program which he had outlined 
would thaw frozen assets, expand credit and start money circulating. 
The President attempted part of this through co-operation between 
the Federal Reserve Board and large banks. In addition, Hoover pro- 
posed the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the 
increase of capital to the Federal Land banks, to provide more money 
to loan to farmers and additional rediscount authority for the Federal 
Reserve banks. 

Garner's biggest task was keeping his own party together. A party 
that has been for a long time in the minority and schooled in the 
critical opposition tactics of an anti-Administration force is not easily 
converted into a responsible working unit, willing to take a unified 
stand on legislation and accept the blame for it if it fails. 

Garner well knew that the ten years the Democrats had spent in 
harassing the Republicans in the House had developed sloppy party 
habits. Failure to show up for roll calls was only one of them. Each 
Democrat had voted in the way best calculated to help his standing with 
his constituents. They faced a situation now where if they were to 
succeed they must vote as a unit. 

"It's hard to get these roosters to realize they can't any longer strut 
around and crow when they feel like it," he said. 

In the Board of Education, in the cloakrooms and in the Speaker's 
lobby, Garner used all his persuasive power. 

"You are at the controls," he told them. "You must remember that 
you are in command and are no longer the minority party." 

Garner had had more experience in harassing the Republicans than 
any Democrat in the House. Had it been a time of prosperity, the 
temptation to make life miserable for the opposition would not now 
have been distasteful to him. The Democrats could have blocked 
legislation, forced compromises, obtained concessions. But this was 
no time for partisan antics. 

Garner had made up his mind to support the Hoover relief program. 

It was, he felt, the only patriotic course open. He felt, however, that It 
was inadequate to meet the situation. The legislation which Hoover 
proposed was pot through the House of Representatives with a speed 
that amazed the White House. 

To the moratorium on European debts. Garner had Ragon of 
Arkansas attach an amendment setting out that approval of the 
moratorium could not be construed as a cancellation of the debts. 

Garner called In Byrns of Tennessee, chairman of the House 
Appropriations Committee. 

"Now, Joe/' he told the tall Tennessean, "don't increase a single 
solitary Item in the Hoover budget. We are not going to sink the 
Treasury further into debt." 

He told Byrns and Collier: 

"If there have to be huge appropriations or bond issues for federal 
relief they must carry taxes to amortize them." 

The Democrats put through one measure of their own, a bill to have 
the Tariff Commission report to Congress, Instead of the President, 
such changes it deemed advisable under the reciprocal clauses of the 
tariff act. This would have placed on Congress the duty of making 
such changes effective. 

Garner predicted Hoover would veto It. This the President promptly 
did. Garner never called it up again. There was no need wasting time. 

Garner's management of his party and of legislation brought him 
much praise. He got credit for tact and a sense of humor. Some little 
things which he thought perfectly natural and hardly worth notice 
added to his popularity. 

He gave up the Speaker's automobile, partly because he felt he had 
very little use for It anyway and partly to set an example of government 
economy. When he was asked at a press conference if he did not 
think the dignity lent by an official car was worth the small cost, 
Garner replied: 

"It doesn't take an automobile to make the office dignified. Ill lend 
the dignity." 

Sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Garner walked to the Capitol, sometimes 
they went by taxi and sometimes the Speaker rode home In the rumble- 
seat of his Secretary's automobile. He and Mrs* Garner went in a taxi- 

cab to the dinner which President and Mrs. Hoover gave for the 
Speaker and Mrs. Garner. 

The Speakership brought additional mail to Garner. It swamped 
Mrs. Garner and the extra clerical force that went with the office. 
As the depression grew worse the Speaker's mail ran as high as 
3,500 letters a day. 

Garner knew his honeymoon would be short. He told me: 

"111 be criticized for following Hoover and not offering a program 
of our own and I'll be accused of sabotaging Hoover, Fm not going 
to let it bother me. I've got skin as thick as cowhide." 

Some Democrats were continuously asking him to break the truce 
with the White House, 

When press criticism began, Garner read, without seemingly being 
disturbed, editorials that attacked him and cartoons which ridiculed 
him. Usually he would write to the cartoonist for an autographed copy 
of the cartoon. 

He said in an interview: 

"I astonished people here in Washington once by saying I was for 
the welfare of the country first and that of the Democratic party 
second. They didn't think I was like that, but I am. I am still that way, 
and it's somewhat like accusing a man of treason to say to him, in 
times like these, that he would try to block any constructive measure 
simply because it comes from the other side of the political fence. 

"This is election year and I know of some things we could do from 
which we could derive some political advantage. But, as I see it, 
politics is now a secondary condition. The welfare of the country is 
of more importance than electoral votes for my party." 

In February, Garner was irked by speeches of Cabinet members 
taking full credit for the Republicans for all legislation. He thought 
President Hoover should have rebuked them and should even have 
called to the attention of the country the fact that the Democrats 
were co-operating. 

No such statement was made. 

Just before Washington's Birthday the House put through the 
Federal Reserve credit bill, the last of the Hoover emergency relief 
measures the Democrats had promised to support, and Garner issued 
a fiery statement. 

"Co-operation between the two great political parties In effecting 
emergency legislation Is a fine thing," he said. "When such issues as 
BOW confront the country are up is no time for partisan politics. But 
co-operation does not mean that one party to it shall claim the right 
to have everything It asks enacted into law, to the exclusion of what 
the other party deems necessary for the public welfare. 

"The Democrats of the Senate and House have sought in every 
way to clear the track for measures calculated to relieve the public 
distress, and particularly to effect such savings in the cost of govern- 
ment as may make it possible to balance the budget, with the minimum 
hardship involved In increased taxes. 

"Our course has met with approbation all over the country in fact, 
nobody has ventured to criticize us with the exception of the Adminis- 
tration which appears to regard it as a requisite not only that the 
Democrats shall sign on the dotted line, but insists that the Ad- 
ministration should have credit for whatever Is accomplished. 

"Obviously the Democratic majority of the House subscribes to no 
such interpretation of its duty. If we are going to be partners in the 
enterprise of redeeming prosperity, in reducing the distress of the de- 
pression, in effecting economies in government, in formulating measures 
adequate to produce the revenue the government requires, we must 
be full partners, taking our full share of responsibilities and participat- 
ing in whatever benefits accrue political or otherwise." 

The Democrats were ready to make some moves of their own, but 
Garner was silent on his plans. 

"A lot of chatter in the newspapers isn't getting helpful legisla- 
tion," he said. 

On February 16, Garner formed a Democratic Economy Committee, 
headed by Representative John McDuffie of Alabama, and told it to 
search for every way possible to cut government costs. Secretary of the 
Treasury Mills went to the Capitol and told Garner that there would 
be a Treasury deficit of $1,320,000,000 instead o the $920,000,000 
originally estimated. 

The Ways and Means Committee was already struggling with the 
problem. Here Garner suffered a blow. Chairman Collier of the Ways 
and Means Committee had a break in his health and was ordered out 
of Washington for a long rest. He never recovered. Able Representa- 

tive Crisp, second man on the committee, thus was given double work. 

Every proposal for any kind of a new tax brought a protest from 
somewhere. Crisp went to Garner and told him that in his estimation 
there was just one way to raise the added revenue and that was a 
manufacturers' sales tax. Crisp's sincere presentation convinced Garner. 
Despite his dislike of the sales tax, the Speaker told Crisp to go ahead. 
The three months of tranquillity among Democrats was about to come 
to an end. 

On February 22, the House gave Garner another of the spontaneous 
tributes of affection it was always giving him. President Hoover had 
addressed a joint session of Congress in celebration of George Washing- 
ton's birthday. After the President had left and the Speaker rose to 
adjourn the House, someone hollered: 

"Hurrah for Jack Garner." 

The entire House got on its feet and cheered for several minutes. 

Three weeks later Garner had lost control of the House. When 
Crisp brought in the tax bill with the sales-tax feature, the revolt was 
on. Most of the Democrats, led by Representative Doughton of North 
Carolina, refused to go along. They were joined by La Guardia of 
New York. 

When the debate was at its bitterest stage, Mr. Garner called me one 
morning at seven o'clock and asked me to come to the Capitol and 
discuss with him a poll he had heard I had made of the twenty- 
one-man Texas delegation on the sales tax. I told him that one or two 
of the Texans would vote for the tax, one or two were on the fence 
and the rest opposed and that I doubted anything he could do or say 
would change the situation. He remarked: 

"Well, if I can't take Texas along on this I don't know what I 
can say to members from other states." 

By midday that day, the stampede was on. There was no way but 
to let it run its course. 

On March 18, he issued a statement to newspapers in which he said: 

"There never was and there never can be a perfect tax bili There 
never was and there never can be a tax bill pleasing to everyone 
or, indeed, entirely pleasing to anyone. The supreme purpose of the 
impending tax bill is to enable the government to balance the budget. 
As the surest, soundest and most effective means to this vital end, the 

sales-tax plan was adopted after prolonged and exhaustive discussion. 

"If we permit the securities of the government to be impaired, all 
securities will be relatively impaired. If the people lack confidence in 
the financial stability of their government, they will lack confidence 
in all forms of corporate and individual enterprise. 

"It is, therefore, of the highest importance that the budget should 
be balanced in order that the financial integrity of the nation shall be 
preserved. That is the goal that must be reached. 

"The emergency that confronts us is no ordinary one. It calls for 
the sacrifice of individual theories to the paramount duty of rescuing 
the national government from a condition which must be corrected 
before there can be recovery from the existing depression. Theory 
must yield to national necessity. 

"No man can call himself a patriot who, in the face of so overwhelm- 
ing a crisis, can give heed to his individual fortunes or to the view- 
point of particular groups or sections. The general interest of the 
country, as a whole, will be a safe guide to our feet in this vital matter. 

"As for myself, I say now if the need be, I am ready to yield 
temporarily every economic opinion I have ever had to reach that 
goal the financial salvation of my country. 

"Knowing as I do the high character of the membership of this 
Congress, Republican as well as Democrat, I do not for a moment 
doubt the goal will be reached." 

But the House was completely out of hand. The bill was in process 
of being torn to pieces, with $500,000,000 in revenue sliced off. Bond 
prices and government security prices began to slip. 

On March 29, Garner went to the Speaker's chair wearing a sombre 
business suit instead of the formal day attire he usually wore. At the 
end of the chaplain's prayer he called Representative William B. 
Bankhead of Alabama to the chair and stepped down from the 

The Speaker looked worn and tired. 

"For one of the few times in his Me he had not been sleeping well 
for nights," Mrs. Garner said. 

Garner stood for a few moments talking to Representative Lewis W. 
Douglas of Arizona. Then as the reading of the House Journal was 
completed he walked to the well of the House and made the formal 


motion to "strike out the last word." He was employing a hondred- 
year-old device used by members to obtain the floor when the House 
is sitting as a Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, 
considering amendments to a bill. 

Garner intended to address the House as a Representative from 
Texas, and not as its Speaker. But instantly Crisp was on his feet 
asking unanimous consent that the Speaker have such time as he 

Garner stood calmly in the well of the House, an arm resting on a 
reading stand. 

The House shouted unanimous approval of Crisp's motion. It 
sensed one of those big moments that come only occasionally to 
parliamentary bodies. 

The crowd in the jammed galleries leaned forward. Mrs. Garner 
came up from the floor below and, finding her seat occupied, took a 
seat on the floor of the gallery aisle. Senators rushed over from the 
other end of the Capitol and squeezed in wherever they could. 

Garner began to speak in a low, earnest, conversational tone. 

"When I was elected Speaker of this House," he said, "it was my 
purpose then, and it has been my purpose all along, and it shall be my 
purpose in the future, to preside over the House of Representatives 
as impartially and fairly as my intellect will permit." 

Applause broke the tenseness. Garner drank from a glass of water 
on the table beside him. He was as calm as if discussing a minor 
bill. He continued: 

"In order to do that I felt it would be better if I did not enter into 
general debate for fear it might become partisan, and, therefore, I have 
refrained up to this time from taking the floor on any subject. But in 
view of the fact that I had served eighteen years on the Ways and 
Means Committee, had acquired some knowledge of taxation, it was 
felt by some of my colleagues on that committee that I owed a duty 
to the House to make some statement concerning the tax situation. 
Yielding to that, I appear before you this morning to make what I 
conceive to be a statement as to the duty and right of each member of 
the House from my viewpoint. 

"In October, the President of the United States requested certain 
members of Congress to come to Washington to consider certain ques- 

lions that he had in view to recommend to the Congress of the United 
States, when it met. 

"While here in Washington, there was a very grave doubt in the 
minds of certain officials and members of the Administration whether 
there would be a tax bill at the coming session. After ascertaining 
this, I returned to my home and for the first time in my life undertook 
to prepare an address to the House of Representatives, believing that 
the Republicans would organize the House and that my Democratic 
colleagues might elect me leader. 

"I believed then as I do now, that it W 7 as the duty of our govern- 
ment to sustain its credit and to ask Congress to balance the budget." 

Again the House applauded. 

Without a trace of emotion the high-pitched voice of the Speaker 
went on: 

"That speech will never be delivered because I was not selected as 
minority leader, but happened to become the Speaker of the House of 

"I arrived here on the nth of November, before the Congress met. 
The newspapermen gathered in my office at that time, when it looked 
as if the Democrats would organize the House and whatever I might 
say might be interesting to the country. The first interview I gave was 
to impress upon them and, I hope, to impress upon the country 
and my colleagues the importance of maintaining the financial in- 
tegrity of the Republic. I have from that time until this repeatedly, 
before Congress met and before I was elected Speaker, maintained 
that the highest possible duty that the House of Representatives could 
perform for the people of the country during this session was to levy 
sufficient taxes to sustain the financial integrity of the Republic. 

"It was suggested by some of my colleagues, both in the Senate 
and in the House, that it might be advisable from a party standpoint 
and of the service to the country that the Democrats of the House and 
the Senate get together and, so far as they could, outline a program 
or policy which we thought would be to the best interests of the 
country. In pursuance of that thought, Senator Robinson, leader of 
the Democrats in the Senate, and myself selected what is known as 
the Policy Committee. It was composed of ten members of the 
Senate and ten members of the House. . . . That committee from time 

f 144 I 

to time had meetings in my office for the purpose o discussing what 
was the best interest of the country as well as the best interest of 
the Democratic organization of the House and Senate. On January 6, 
of this year, after a two-hour session and a full discussion, that joint 
committee unanimously decided upon this language as expressing 
what should be the Democratic policy of the Senate and the House of 

" It is of primary importance that the budget be balanced promptly. 5 

"As I say, that was unanimously adopted by the Policy Committee. 
I believed then, and I believe now, that the paramount duty of the 
House of Representatives is to levy sufficient taxes of some kind, of 
some nature, that will sustain the credit of this country in the eyes 
of the world, as well as our own people. Later on the Ways and 
Means Committee went to work with a view of bringing about that 
desired end. . . . 

"It was decided that the better policy would be to prepare a non- 
partisan tax bill and present it to the House. In view of the fact 
that the Democratic majority is small, we felt it would be difficult., if 
not impossible, to pass in the House a partisan bill. In addition to 
that, in the hearts of these men and in their conversations, they thought 
it was the more patriotic thing to take into our confidence the entire 
membership of the House in undertaking to pass this important piece 
of legislation. . . . 

"I mention the background to this, Mr. Chairman, and my Demo- 
cratic friends especially, to meet some criticisms that have been directed 
at me for advocating the policy of levying sufficient taxes to sustain 
the credit of the government. In view of that background, I think I 
had a right to ask the House, and especially the Democrats, to join 
with us in an effort to levy sufficient taxes to take care of the obliga- 
tions made by the Congress of the United States. The Committee on 
Ways and Means went about its work in executive session and reported 
a bill to the House. In the course of those executive sessions I was told, 
and I think the membership of the House was told, that the committee 
believed it impossible to find sufficient taxes which it thought the 
House would indorse to balance the budget, unless it went to a 
manufacturers' tax. My reply to that was that I have been opposed 
to a sales tax ever since I had been a member of Congress, and I had 

always, and always would be opposed to a sales tax. I am now 
opposed to a sales tax; but, gentlemen, if I find it impossible to balance 
this budget and restore the confidence of the. world and our own 
people in our government without! some such tax I" would levy any 
tax, sales or any other kind, in order to do that. I think more of 
my country than I do of any theory of taxation that I may have, and 
the country at this time is in a condition where the worst taxes you 
could possibly levy would be better than no taxes at all. 

"The Committee of the Whole House acted otherwise. I have no 
quarrel with you. I have said on the- floor of this house scores and 
scores of times, and I repeat it now, that I do not believe in rules being 
applied to the House of Representatives that take away from it the 
freedom of expression not only of your voice but of your vote. I 
believe in freedom of expression; therefore I was unwilling to have 
any gag rule, so called, applied to the consideration or this bill. I 
wanted the members to have free opportunity to express themselves in 
the Committee of the Whole, and you have had that opportunity. 
You have expressed yourselves; you have arrived at a conclusion that 
you will not have a sales tax; and, I repeat, I have no quarrel with 
you because of it. 

"I appeal to you, not only in the name of my party but my country, 
that in view of the fact that there has been stricken from this bill 
more than $500,000,000 of taxation, it is your duty, your paramount 
duty, to help this House and this committee restore some taxes to this 
bill in order that this country's financial integrity may be maintained. 

"My only object in taking the floor was to make that one appeal. 
Last Saturday, as well as yesterday, the people of the world realized 
that Congress, in a gesture, had indicated that it did not Intend to 
balance this budget. What was the result, not only among American 
people but among the peoples of the world? 

"As reflected through the New York stock exchange and other ex- 
changes of this country, what did we find? We found the foreigner 
selling the dollar. We found our exchange going down more than it 
has at any time in the past twelve years. We found it renewed yester- 
day, and we found that followed by a sharp reduction in U.S. securities. 
What does that mean? It simply means that the one billion, eight 
hundred million dollars of money belonging to foreigners who have 

come to us with the idea that this flag not only protected the person but 
protected property and who put their credits in the banks of our coun- 
try, because they thought that was the safest place on the face of the 
earth to deposit their wealth, have transferred their gold to foreign 
vaults. When they heard around the world that there was some doubt 
about this Congress balancing the budget, they immediately began to 
withdraw their wealth, to sell American exchange and transfer their 
gold to foreign vaults. As sure as I stand in the well of this House, I 
believe that if this Congress today should decline to levy a tax bill there 
would not be a bank in existence in the United States in sixty days that 
Could meet its depositors. I believe that the shock to the nation, the 
shock to the foreigner who is doing business with us would be such 
that there would be a. financial panic such as has never been equaled 
in this Republic since its organization." 

The House again applauded the florid-faced Texan, who ia a kindly 
manner was speaking to men with whom he had long had affectionate 

"This committee will bring in a program. I hope you will support it. 
I do not want all the taxes that are in there. You cannot get just the 
taxes you want. This committee is composed of twenty-four men from 
twenty-four different states. I believe you will admit they are fairly intel 
ligent. They are patriotic. They want to serve the country. They want 
to serve you. They would like to bring in an ideal bill that could be 
voted for by every member of this House, but it impossible to do it. 

"So I appeal to you that if you do not like the taxes which the com- 
mittee reports, will you not be good enough, will you not have states- 
manship enough when you criticize it and ask to strike it out, will you 
not have the manhood to substitute something in its place?" 

The greatest applause of his speech greeted him here. Suddenly he 
said, as the cheering died out: 

"At the risk of being criticized, I want to give to the world and to 
the country today, if I can, an expression of this House, so that the 
world and the country may realize we are going to balance the budget. 
Mr. Chairman, may I do an unusual thing? I may be criticized for it, 
but I want every man and every woman in this House who hopes to 
balance the budget and who is willing to go along with that effort to 
try to balance the budget, to rise in his seat." 


Almost the entire membership of the House rose. 

His face flushed, Garner then asked:" 

"Now, if they do not mind, those who do not want to balance the 
budget can rise In their seats." 

As none rose, he added: 

"I think this ought to restore to the American people confidence in 
our country. 

"We may have differences among ourselves, but in our hearts we 
are patriotic. We want to serve this Republic. This is a sensible Congress 
and we can get sensible results. 

"I again want to ask the charity o the House, and I am go-ing to say 
to the membership that, with their permission, for the balance of the 
consideration of -this bill, I hope to participate in it. 

"I said to the gentlemen of the Ways and Means Committee yester- 
day that I would not consider it any reflection on me or on my honor, 
or integrity, or desire to serve the nation if the committee disagreed with 
me about some of the taxes. That is a privilege. It is not only a 
privilege but it is the duty of the members to express themselves. 

"I am an organization Democrat. I never in my life cast a vote against 
my own judgment except when I had to go along with the Democratic 
organization. I have done that and I will do it again. You must have 
organization. We have it through committees, and it is the only way 
we can function in this House. 

"Let me say to the Republican side that during the consideration of 
this bill, while some remarks have been made by men in high authority 
on the outside that ought not to have been made, the membership in 
this House on the Republican side has been quite decent. 

"I am willing to pay them that encomium because they are entitled 
to it. 

"Gentlemen, I just wanted to say these few words to you. Let me say 
to the Democrats alone, do not become critical, do not throw brickbats, 
let us be brotherly so far as we can. If one of us should disagree do not 
point your finger at him and say he is not a Democrat. That is not the 
thing to do and it is not helpful. I pray you on this side to be in a good 
humor so far as you can. You are here to serve our country; and, 
gentlemen, let us get through this legislation at the earliest date possible 
in the interest of our country.'* 

*,J AC tf' 

Garner's election as Speaker in 1931 made him the highest 
ranking Democrat in the nation. (Baer, Labor) 

Garner had made the speech of his life, restored his leadership and 
brought the House back to order. Backwoods evangelism had tri- 

Snell got recognition and promised to back up the committee. La 
Guardia, who had been one of the most devastating of the wreckers, 
told the House he would "stand by the committee and their recom- 
mendations." He stayed by his agreement but he told the House in 
another speech: "I am getting it going and coming in my district." 

[ M9 1 

Crisp outlined a new program. House and Senate passed a budget- 
balancing program. 

The next test came when Gamer brought In a relief bill of his own. 
The major item In the Hoover program had been the Reconstruction 
Finance Corporation. Garner said the R.F.C. was doing good work as 
far as it went, but it needed Its activities enlarged and still other meas- 
ures were necessary to fight the depression. 

Employment conditions were becoming worse. Garner by early May 
had become convinced that the Hoover administration's relief measures 
were inadequate. He drew up a public-works bill of his own. He took 
all the recommendations for federal works, such as public buildings, 
rivers and harbors projects and other approved proposals, and lumped 
them Into one big bill. 

Each one of these proposals had been sent to the Capitol with the 
endorsement of the Hoover or Coolidge administration. Garner felt 
that If work were started on them at that time it would provide a 
means of absorbing the unemployed and give an impetus to the heavy 
Industries which would supply the materials. He figured up the total 
cost of the projects and then estimated the rate tax which it would be 
necessary to place on gasoline to amortize the cost. 

Then Garner called a dozen House Democratic leaders together. In 
the conference room were Majority Leader Rainey, Appropriations 
Chairman Joseph W. Byrns and Representatives Warren of North 
Carolina; McDuffie of Alabama; Woodrum of Virginia; Collier of 
Mississippi; Crisp of Georgia; Rayburn of Texas; Bankhead of Ala- 
bama; and Sullivan of New York. 

He asked each for his candid opinion, walking around the room and 
standing in front of each one as the answers were given. McDuffie 
and Warren, two of Garner's closest and most devoted friends, said 
they were not in favor of the proposition. Byrns said he couldn't quite 
make up his mind about It. The others were all for It. Gamer smiled as 
he summarized the results of the conference. 

"There's Mr. Byrns, he is not quite sure on the matter yet. McDuffie 
and Warren are against It. But well take care of McDuffie and 
Warren. We'll call a caucus. Gentlemen, if a majority of you had been 
opposed to this bill, I would not present it. But now I am determined 
to do so." 


At tie caucus Garner gave everybody a chance to say he didn't want 
to be bound. Nobody accepted this opportunity. 

The measure provided that the money should be expended as 
follows : 

i : One billion, two hundred nine million for a public-works program 
to be expended on public buildings, mostly post offices, and highways, 
waterways and flood control projects. 

2: A billion-dollar increase in the capitalization of the Reconstruction 
Finance Corporation to enable it to make loans to states, cities and 
towns for public works. 

3 : One hundred million dollars to be expended at the discretion of the 

It levied a tax of a third a cent a gallon on gasoline to pay for it. 

President Hoover denounced the bill as the greatest pork-barrel 
measure ever devised. It passed the House and Senate, but the President 
vetoed it. A substitute measure embodying much of it, however, was 
passed and became law. 

The political truce was now at an end. 

The two major parties were near the national conventions which 
would nominate their 1932 standard bearers. 


Kangaroo Ticket 

AFAR as I know the first mention of John N. Garner as the 
possible 1932 Democratic Presidential nominee was in my cor- 
respondence to Southwestern newspapers after the 1930 election, 
which had been so close that there was doubt as to whether the Repub- 
licans or Democrats would organize the House and whether Longworth 
or Garner would be Speaker. My mention was routine and not overly 

While only one Speaker of the House, James K. Polk, became Presi- 
dent or even received the Presidential nomination while In that high 
parliamentary chair, every Speaker except the two foreign-born ones 
Crisp and Henderson has figured In Presidential speculation. So my 
dispatch merely chronicled that as leader of the minority or as Speaker, 
Garner was sure to be a contender for the Presidential nomination. 

As far as I could tell, if Mr, Garner ever saw the dispatch at all, his 
reception of it was no more fervid than my report of his chances. He 
never even mentioned It to me. 

Speaker Longworth had come back to preside over the short session. 
This was before the lame-duck amendment to the Constitution changing 
the annual meeting date of Congress. 

In the Board of Education, Garner bantered Longworth: 

"I want to be Speaker and pay you back for some of the gag rules 
you have put on me. It will be a great delight to sit in that chair and 
watch you squirming down there on the floor." 

A day or two later, I mentioned to Garner that Texas, which was 
never famed for a paucity of state pride, was proud of his position 
In the party and undoubtedly there would be a movement in his 
behalf for the Presidential nomination. 

He seemed uninterested. Instead he commented on the whacking 
gubernatorial sweep in New York. Roosevelt had barely nosed in as 
Governor in 1928, but in 1930 he had built up an unprecedented 
Democratic majority by carrying upstate counties in hitherto rock- 
ribbed Republican areas. 

"I think the Democrats have a real political catch in this fellow 
Roosevelt," he said. "He looks like the man for us in 1932." 

His own chances he dismissed with this statement: 

"No Democrat from Texas is going to have availability for his 
party's Presidential nomination except under extraordinary circum- 

I asked him how well he knew Roosevelt, who had been Assistant 
Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration. 

"I knew him hardly at all during the war," he said. "I knew a lot 
of fellows in the War Department, but we didn't have any naval 
bases on the Rio Grande and I had no dealing with anyone in the 
Navy except Secretary Daniels, with whom I talked about some 

After Roosevelt began to recover from his polio attack, Garner 
said, he frequently came through Washington going to and from 
Warm Springs. On these occasions he would stop at the Continental 
Hotel, a medium-priced hotel on Union Station Plaza. He would 
call Garner and Cordell Hull and, because Roosevelt was crippled 
and unable to get to the Capitol conveniently, Garner and Hull would 
go to the hotel and see him. 

I asked what effect Roosevelt's physical condition might have on 
his availability. 

"For the Presidency you run on a record and not on your legs," 
Garner replied. "If he makes a good record with the legislature at 
Albany this winter his kind of ailment won't hurt him as a candidate. 
It might help him." 

After Longworth's death and Garner's election as Speaker, there 
was an occasional mention of the Texan as a Presidential eligible. 
It was, however, an editorial in the Hearst newspapers, written by 
William Randolph Hearst himself, which caused Garner to begin to 
get real recognition as a Presidential possibility. 

Garner had no advance information that the Hearst editorial was 

coming. He had not seen Hearst since they served together in Con- 
gress. From Ms standpoint it could hardly have corne at a more inop- 
portune time. He had a tiny but cohesive majority. He was putting 
through the Hoover relief program and the Democrats were deter- 
mined to put in additional measures o their own if they regarded 
Administration measures insufficient. 

Garner enjoyed his daily press conferences. He liked snappy ques- 
tions and gave tart answers. But the one that day was not so pleasant. 
The first question was: 

"What have you got to say about your Presidential candidacy?" 

"I haven't got a word to say/' he shot back. 

He shut off further questioning with finality. 

'I haven't a word to say. I am trying to attend to my business 
here. Now I'll talk about anything else you want to." 

After the press conference I remained to discuss the situation about 
the long, prominently displayed editorial privately with him. He was 
worried and said further Presidential talk could do him and the party 
severe harm. 

"I have been Speaker less than sixty days," he said. "I have got a 
tender majority of three. If I can stay close to the gavel I can get 
along all right. The biggest single bloc of votes in there is controlled 
by Tammany. It's more than a tenth of all the Democratic votes 
in the House. They have got a Roosevelt-Smith split among them- 
selves already. Smith has got support among Congressmen from other 
states. The Maryland fellows are lined up for Ritchie. There are 
Roosevelt people in nearly all the delegations. I don't want to jeopard- 
ize our cohesion and the legislative program by a Presidential 
candidacy of my own." 

The Hearst editorial and subsequent news-column comment, how- 
ever, brought Garner many pledges of support. Letters poured in on 
him from former colleagues in Congress and many of the 1932 mem- 
bers of Congress offered him their aid. He refused it and said tie 
was not a candidate. 

But if Garner's interest in his own Presidential prospects was 
tepid, this was not true in Texas. By early February a whooping cam- 
paign was under way for the state's first son ever to sit in the Speaker's 
chair and who might go on to the White House. 



A parade of 1932 Presidential candidates Franklin D. Roose- 
velt, Garner, Governor Ritchie of Maryland, Governor Murray 
of Oklahoma, Newton D. Baker of Ohio and President Hoover. 
(Gregg, Denver Post) 

Editorial discussion of Garner was widespread. The Philadelphia 
Public Ledger commented : 

"In Garner the Democrats think they have found another 'Old 
Hickory.* Unquestionably there is a lot of tough, well-seasoned 
hickory in Garner's make-up, for few men in public life so thoroughly 
enjoy a fight as he does. But he has some other characteristics that 
Jackson lacked, for instance, tact and ability to co-operate. 

"Jackson, in Garner's patience-trying position would have treated 
the country to a rare display of temper, bumped heads together, fought 
a duel or two and plunged the House in turmoil. Much as Garner 
loves fighting, common sense always tells him when to use salve in- 
stead of blows." 

By February i, it was evident to everyone that Governor Roosevelt 
might win the race by default. Other than Roosevelt only Governor 

Albert C. Ritchie o Maryland was making any effort toward getting 
the nomination and Ritchie seemingly was making little headway. 

On February 7, Alfred E. Smith came into the race in a statement 
in which he said: 

"So many inquiries have come to me from friends throughout the 
country who worked for me and believed in me as to my attitude in 
the present political situation that I feel that I owe It to my friends 
and to the millions of men and women who supported me so loyally 
in 1928 to make my position clear. 

"If the Democratic national convention, after careful consideration, 
should decide it wants me to lead I will make the fight, but I will 
not make a preconvention campaign to secure the support of delegates. 

"By action of the Democratic national convention in 1928, I am the 
leader of my party in the nation. With a full sense of the responsi- 
bility thereby imposed, I shall not in advance of the convention either 
support or oppose the candidacy of any aspirant for the nomination." 

To politicians there was no misreading the Smith announcement. He 
was gunning for Roosevelt, the man who succeeded him as Governor 
at Albany. Smith himself made no secret of the fact that he intended 
opposing Roosevelt "to the last heartbeat" at Chicago. 

Smith's announcement slowed up the hitherto runaway campaign 
for Roosevelt. It meant that Roosevelt could never get a delegate 
from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island or New Jersey and 
that two-thirds of the New York delegates would stand for Smith 
until the end. 

Fresh impetus was given the Garner campaign when on February 
17 the two Texas Senators, Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, in 
a joint statement issued at the Capitol, announced that the name of 
John N. Garner would be presented formally to the Democratic 
national convention. In part they said: 

"Without reflecting on any other Democrat whose name has been 
mentioned in connection with the Presidency, we have no hesitation 
in averring that John Garner by training and experience in national 
affairs and by his wide grasp of national problems is the most highly 
qualified of all those who are being mentioned as candidates in either 
the Republican or the Democratic parties. Texas presents him to the 
nation as a man grounded in the fundamentals of democracy, a 
rugged and militant champion of the American people." 

To a newspaper which wrote to him asking his views on national 
questions. Garner replied: 

"I have no intention of making a declaration with respect to any 
question with which Congress does not have immediate concern. 
I am not particularly interested as to how my determination in this 
respect will affect my political future. I am confronted with a task, 
a task involving greater responsibilities than have fallen to the lot 
of the Speakers since the World War, and my sole ambition is to 
discharge my duties in such manner that I may be helpful to the 
American people in relieving the distressed conditions they are ex- 

Garner told Harry Sexton, a secretary in his office, to send the 
same letter to anyone who made a request for his views. 

He showed irritation whenever the subject of the Presidency was 
mentioned to him. Once he said: 

"I think you know me well enough to know that when I say any- 
thing I mean it. I am Speaker of the House and devoting my time 
to its duties. This is the first time the Democrats have controlled any 
branch of government for ten years. If we do not function properly 
between now and the Democratic national convention the Democratic 
Presidential nomination won't be worth two whoops in hell to any- 

A few days later when he returned from a conference with Presi- 
dent Hoover at the White House, he said: 

"I always thought of the White House as a prison, but I never 
noticed until today how much the shiny latch on the Executive office 
door looks like the handle on a casket." 

Garner was the best newspaper copy in Washington in those days, 
When he went with Mrs. Garner to the Speaker's Dinner given by 
President and Mrs. Hoover, it was the first time since Taft enter- 
tained Champ Clark that a President had given a dinner for a 
Speaker of the opposite political creed. 

He almost forgot about it. Mrs. Garner telephoned from their 
hotel to a secretary: 

"Get him by the ear, if necessary, and bring him down here." Garner 
was located in a policy conference in McDuffie's office. 

Newspapers carried his picture entering the White House in a 
full dress suit, the first time he had ever been photographed so 

garbed. Next day his colleagues at the Capitol called him "Society 

One o the guests at the White House dinner was Henry Ford. 
Another was Melvin Traylor of Chicago, whom Garner thought likely 
to be the running mate of Franklin D. Roosevelt, if Roosevelt got the 
Presidential nomination as Garner thought he would. 

The Garner Texas campaign was headed by Mayor C. M. Chambers 
of San Antonio. Chambers and Garner had been boys together in 
Red River County. A statewide convention at San Antonio of Feb- 
ruary 22 launched the Garner candidacy. Chambers stepped aside 
and the Texas committee chose Representative Sam Rayburn in his 
place. In accepting, Rayburn said: 

"My interpretation of this action is that it named me only the 
national representative of the Texas committee and not a national 
campaign manager. Mr. Garner is not an active candidate for the 
Democratic nomination for President and, therefore, there is no 
national campaign manager." 

Action on a front farther west quickly followed. A California group 
announced its intention to place Garner in the primary there against 
Alfred E. Smith, 1928 standard-bearer, and Governor Franklin D. 

WiEiam G. McAdoo, Wilson's Secretary of the Treasury, in Los 
Angeles declared for Garner: 

"He is beyond the reach of those sinister and subde influences which 
work unceasingly against the interests of the masses of the people. 
He will know how to use the executive power to promote the common 
good. Under Garner all elements of the party should be able to unite." 

Garner's friends in Congress discussed the situation. They got 
no help from him. He would talk to no one about it. 

"He growls like an old bear when you mention it," said Repre- 
sentative John McDuffie o Alabama. "If he is "not interested, why 
should his friends be?" 

But McDufSe and others of his friends kept busy anyway. They felt 
that a primary election victory in a doubtful state such as California 
would enhance his prestige in the House and raise his Presidential 
stock, but a poor showing would help neither. The discussion was an 

[ 158 ] 

academic one for the Califoraians entered his name anyway, with 
McAdoo heading the Garner slate. 

The California primary came on May 4. Both the Roosevelt and 
Smith camps had placed great store on the outcome there. If Roose- 
velt carried it he would be less than fifty delegate votes short o the 
necessary two-thirds of all the delegates and it would make his first 
ballot nomination inevitable. The Smith forces depended on Cali- 
fornia to stop the triumphant Roosevelt march through conventions 
and primaries and felt it would furnish the setup for a successful 
"stop-Roosevelt" movement. They believed San Francisco, where 
Smith was prime favorite, would tip the scales for the Happy Warrior, 
but the next day astonished Democratic politicians read this Associ- 
ated Press news story: 

"California Democracy swept John N. Garner from the gallery of 
favorite sons in today's presidential primaries, giving him a sweeping 
victory over Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Alfred E. Smith in the 
contest for the state's 44 votes in the national convention, 

"The final tabulations showed: Garner 211,913; Roosevelt 167,117; 
Smith 135,981." 

Other than in Texas and California, no effort was made for Garner. 
He had discouraged every effort in his behalf. Thus, when the Chi- 
cago convention opened he had the ninety delegates from the two 
states, some second-choice support and a possibility of being the con- 
vention's compromise candidate for President. In hand, he had the 

A field of a dozen active or receptive candidates and favorite sons 
were expected to face the barrier at Chicago, but only four were be- 
lieved to figure as the possible nominee. These were Governor Roose- 
velt, Speaker Garner, Governor Albert C. Ritchie of Maryland and 
Newton D. Baker of Ohio, former Secretary of War. 

Garner's friends believed the bitter division in New York helped 
Garner's chances, especially as the Texan had handily defeated Smith 
and Roosevelt in the California primary. 

Before leaving for Chicago I called on Garner to talk the situation 
over. I was enthusiastic because I thought the Smith-Roosevelt split 
would give him a chance to run past both of them after a deadlock. 

But Garner was still uninterested. 

"I have no desire to be President," he said. "I am perfectly satisfied 
right here in the Speaker's office. "I worked twenty-six years to get 
to be Speaker. If we win this election I will have a comfortable ma- 
jority to work with in the House. If we are on the political upswing 
as it looks, I will have a longer tenure as Speaker than any other man 
ever had. 

"I have felt for several weeks that we have this election in our hands. 
But we had the same kind of situation in 1924. Public confidence is 
sometimes a delicate and fragile thing. It did not survive the rough 
handling we gave it by making a spectacle of ourselves in the Smith- 
McAdoo deadlock. It may not this time. An ugly situation can develop 
at Chicago." 

Then he told me in confidence: 

"I am not going to deadlock the convention against the leader. 
Roosevelt is the leader in delegates. He will have a majority, but not 
two-thirds. Al Smith will have around two hundred delegates and they 
will hold out until the last against Roosevelt. Ritchie will have some 
and they will be against Roosevelt all the way. Senator Lewis will 
not be a candidate and Cermak (mayor of Chicago, who later was 
killed by an assassin's bullet intended for Roosevelt, in Miami) will 
hide out his anti-Roosevelt votes behind Melvin Traylor." 

I asked what he thought of Baker as a compromise if Roosevelt 
did not win on the first few ballots. 

"Compromise candidates don't win Presidential elections," he 
replied. "Garfield was the last one who did, and he won in a very 
close popular vote. Harding was not really a dark horse. Controlling 
Republican leaders had him slated all the time and he had a nest egg 
of around 100 votes on the first ballot. Besides, Governor White 
controls the Ohio delegation, and I don't think he favors Baker. . . . 
Traylor is a banker and this is not a good year for bankers." (There 
was a run on Traylor's bank while the convention was on.) 

"Roosevelt is both strong and weak. He seems to have practically 
no second-choice delegates. He has got just about a third of the New 
York delegates. Smith has the others, and nearly all from New Eng- 
land, New Jersey and half those from Pennsylvania. . . . The stop- 
Roosevelt men could, with a little help, deadlock the convention." 

Naturally, Garner did not communicate his feelings to Governor 


Roosevelt, James A. Farley or anyone else. If they had known his 
attitude they would have been spared many anxious hours in the days 
that followed. His plan was to watch events, be certain Roosevelt 
was the man the convention wanted, and that no better man would 
come to the top. But o one thing he was sure: as Speaker of the 
House and consequently the highest elected Democrat in the nation 
and presently the field marshal of the Democratic legislative forces, 
he was not going to be responsible for a shattering of those forces. 

Representative Sam Rayburn was in complete charge of the Garner 
management at the Chicago convention. Assisting him was Silliman 
Evans, then a Texas newspaperman. Rayburn played his cards with 
skill, lined up with the "Allies," as the candidates opposing Roose- 
velt were called, and made no commitments to anyone. 

As had been foreseen, the rule requiring two-thirds majority to 
nominate in Democratic conventions was the main block on the 
Roosevelt road, but there was nothing the New York governor could 
do about it. His attempt to change it brought such a protest that his 
managers dropped the effort. The rule was a one-hundred-year-old 
fixture in the party's procedure, and was supported strongly by the 
solid South because it gave those states a kind of veto power. 

Garner personally was against the two-thirds rule. 

"The power it gives the South is a negative one," he said. "If the 
South would stand up for its rights affirmatively, support a Southern 
man for President when that man is more competent than others 
instead of merely trying to veto there might be a time when capability 
rather than place of residence would be the test of availability." 

Before the 1936 convention the South did surrender the great power 
the two-thirds rule gave it and subsequent nominations have been 
made by a majority. The most persistent fight for its abrogation was 
made by Senator Bennett Champ Clark of Missouri, whose famous 
father was defeated by the rule, although he attained a majority at 
Baltimore in 1912. 

The convention met on June 27. The galleries were packed with 
Smith rooters. The Cook County machine, under Cermak, had seen 
to that. Roosevelt's name was the first to go before the convention. 
When John E. Mack concluded the Roosevelt nominating speech, 


delegates gave him a great demonstration, but the galleries hissed 
and booed. 

Senator Tom Connally was given a respectful hearing as he nomi- 
nated Garner as "a Democrat without prefix, suffix or qualifying 
phrase." A Texas band led a colorful parade. Mrs. Grace Hargreaves, 
daughter of William Jennings Bryan, carried the California banner 
and William Gibbs McAdoo held aloft the big California gold bear 
flag. Will Rogers and a group of Oklahoma delegates carried the 
Sooner State banner into the parade, although Oklahoma was in- 
structed for Governor Murray. A few other state banners joined, 
more in friendship than in support. 

It was not until Governor Joseph B. Ely of Massachusetts, in one 
of the most eloquent speeches ever heard in a national convention, 
nominated Alfred E. Smith that the galleries really let go with all 
they had. 

Anti-Roosevelt groups attempted to adjourn at midnight following 
the oratorical Niagara that characterized the nominations and the 
seconding speeches, but the Roosevelt leaders insisted on a ballot. 
They polled a disappointing 666 votes on the first ballot, 102 short 
of the necessary two-thirds. At four o'clock in the morning another 
attempt to adjourn was beaten down by the Roosevelt men, who 
controlled the convention machinery as well as a majority of the 
delegates. The second ballot dragged on until sunrise, with delegation 
after delegation demanding that it be polled by the chair. Internal 
fighting within the delegations was intense. It was an angry, sweaty, 
fist-fighting session. 

Delegates were asleep all over the place by the time the second 
ballot was completed. Tempers of those still awake were sharp. Some 
who went to the hotels to go to bed were brought back when there 
were demands that the delegations of which they were members be 
polled individually. 

In a night packed with drama, the late James J. Walker, Mayor o 
New York, played the part which is vividly remembered by men and 
women who sat in the convention hall at Chicago. 

Serious charges had been made against him as a result of the Sea- 
bury hearing and the case had been sent to Governor Roosevelt, who 
had the power to remove him from office. 

Walker had left the hall under the Impression that Tammany Leader 
John F. Curry, the chairman of the New York delegation, would cast 
the New York delegation's vote 65^ for Smith and 28^2 for Roose- 
velt, but the Roosevelt following in the Empire State insisted on a 
showdown and Curry asked that the delegation be polled. 

Walker, a delegate at large, did not answer to his name. A murmur 
ran over the hall. Was Walker, whose fate was In the hands of 
Roosevelt, ducking the roll call? 

Just as daylight was streaming into convention hall, a small man, 
who had apparently been waked out of a sound sleep and dressed 
very hurriedly and had put on a coat without any shirt under it, 
came hurriedly to the New York section and standing beside his state 
standard demanded recognition. 

Gray-haired, gray-mustached, austere Chairman Thomas J. Walsh, 
hoarse from a night of trying to make his voice carry through the 
din, faced the New York delegation, gavel pointing to the delegate, 
and asked sharply: 

"Who is it that desires recognition?" 

The diminutive delegate replied just as sharply: 

"Walker, of New York." 

No further Identification was necessary, the convention hall was 
suddenly silent for the first time that night. 

"The Mayor of New York is recognized," Walsh said in the hush. 

"Mr. Chairman," Walker said, "I hear that in my absence an alter- 
nate voted on my name. May I ask the privilege of casting my vote 
myself at this time?" 

"The delegate has that right. We will receive the delegate's vote 
now," Walsh responded. 

"I desire that my vote be cast for Alfred E. Smith," Walker said 
in a clear, firm voice, setting off a wild demonstration in the galleries 
and even in the preponderandy Roosevelt delegate rows. (Later, 
Walker resigned the mayoralty.) 

The third inconclusive ballot was finished about nine o'clock in the 
morning, a motion to adjourn was carried and the bleary-eyed weary 
delegates went to their rooms. 

There was lightning in the air after that third ballot, but no one 
knew where it would strike. So- it was with a common fear of disaster 

that the leaders went off for a little rest, and a lot o scheming and 

"Governor Roosevelt is stopped!" declared former Senator James 
Reed of Missouri. 

"The balloting suits me fine/* said A! Smith. 

On that third ballot the result had been Roosevelt 683; Smith 190; 
Garner 101; Governor White of Ohio 52; Melvin A. Tray lor, Chicago 
banker, 40; Governor Ritchie of Maryland 28; Jim Reed 27; Harry F. 
Byrd 24; Newton D. Baker 8. To win, 770 votes were necessary. 

Many Texans and others now believed that Garner had a real chance 
to be nominated. One o these was Will Rogers, who was covering 
the convention for a newspaper syndicate. 

Rogers had something of the same relation with Speaker Garner 
that Mark Twain had had with Speaker Cannon. Twain, when in 
Washington, would take over Cannon's office and hold court; Rogers 
did the same with Garner's office. 

Rogers thought the Democrats were sure to win the election. After 
Garner, his second choice was Owen D. Young. Rogers believed there 
was a possibility that Arizona and Arkansas would go to Garner on 
the fourth ballot. 

Garner also had second-choice strength in Alabama, and Representa- 
tive John McDufEe hoped to swing it to Garner on the fifth or sixth 
ballots. As Alabama, Arizona and Arkansas were the three states alpha- 
betically at the* top of the ballot, the three-way swing might have 
started a stampede for Garner. These states, with Mississippi., Min- 
nesota, Iowa, New Mexico and North Carolina, were voting full 
strength under the unit rule which did not allow a delegation to divide 
its votes for Roosevelt. But there were strong minorities in each, 
fighting to break free and oppose the New York governor. 

Representative Lindsay Warren of North Carolina, now Comptroller 
General of the United States, was one of the Roosevelt floor managers. 
Warren was convinced that if Roosevelt did not make it on the fourth 
ballot he was through. Warren's second choice was Garner and he 
canvassed his delegation in behalf of the Speaker. 

Warren counted eighteen individual delegates as his pledges to 
Garner, but here he was stopped for a most unusual reason. Dr. Hugh 
Young, the famous surgeon of Johns Hopkins Hospital, was a member 


of the Maryland delegation and working hard for Ritchie. Dr. Young 
was riding the North Carolina delegation ceaselessly and had eleven 
delegates lined up for Ritchie. The reason: Dr. Young had performed 
serious and successful operations on eleven of the North Carolina 

"I think Garner would make a great President," gray-haired, dis- 
tinguished Colonel T. M. Washington of the Tarheel State told Warren, 
"But I may have to go back to Johns Hopkins and if I did Doc Young 
might not admit me. He's that strong for Ritchie." 

All that day Smith tried to reach Garner by telephone, but the 
Speaker would not take the call. The Smith men thought this an inten- 
tional snub, but Garner told me later it was not. 

"I meant no discourtesy to Smith," he said. "I knew he was in a bitter, 
last-ditch fight in which I did not intend to take part.. I decided it was 
best for me to talk only to Sam Rayburn, Amon Carter or some other 
members of the Texas delegation. There was no reason to talk to out- 
siders. If Roosevelt had called, I would not have taken that one, either." 
Smith wanted to tell Garner that Texas and California furnished 
Roosevelt's only chance of nomination and that if Garner would hold 
on Roosevelt would shoot his bolt. 

In Washington, Garner analyzed the three ballots, state by state, 
and called Rayburn in Chicago. 

"Sam, I think it is time to break this thing up,'* he said. "Roosevelt 
is the choice of the convention. He has had a majority on three ballots. 
We don't want to be responsible for wrecking the party's chances. The 
nomination ought to be made cm the next roll call." 

Rayburn said he would canvass the situation and call back. He did y 
late in the afternoon. 

"I do not remember exactly what Sam told me," said Garner, "but 
this is the impression it made on my mind: Conferences had been in 
progress all day and Smith's bloc was standing firm. Roosevelt could 
not break into other delegations, and Mississippi and some other states 
were about ready to desert him. Feelers showed that California would 
go to Roosevelt if I released the delegates. Texas would not, unless 
I went on the ticket with the New York governor. They had to sell the 
Texas delegates on the idea that Roosevelt, as governor of the most 
populous state, and I, as head of one branch of the government which 


the Democrats held, would be a winning ticket. If Texas and California 
did not go to Roosevelt on the fourth ballot, Rayburn thought the con- 
vention was in for a deadlock. 

u l didn't like the thought of taking the Vice-Presidential nomination. 
But I wanted another Madison Square Garden deadlock even less. 
The party had been defeated before it nominated John W. Davis on the 
10310! ballot in that long fight between Smith and McAdoo back In 
1924. We had taken another licking in 1928. So I said to Sam, 'All right, 
release my delegates and see what you can do. Hell, I'll do anything to 
see the Democrats win one more national election.* " 

Late that day Senator Pat Harrison- of Mississippi, who did not 
know Garner Intended to release the Texas and California delegations, 
met Silliman Evans at the stairway leading to the convention platform. 
A tense crowd, expecting another wild night, packed every seat in the 
great hall. 

"Has Texas done anything?" asked Harrison. 

"Yes, 17 replied Evans, "and so has California. We've voted to go to 

"Good Lord! Mississippi's just voted to leave him!" Harrison ex- 
claimed and rushed back to bring a quick reversal of that decision. 

The Californians leaped jubilantly to the Roosevelt band wagon. 
They had the honor all delegations like that of casting the deciding 
vote and it had come to them unexpectedly. Under the Interpretation 
of the California law only Garner could release them, and he had talked 
only to Rayburn and no one In the California contingent knew the 
action was imminent. McAdoo only a few hours before had said: 

"California will stay with Garner until hell freezes over." 

The Texans went sullenly to Roosevelt. Actually there Is some 
question whether the Lone Star delegation ever voted to go to Roose- 
velt. Texas had only 46 votes In the convention, but 180 men and women 
were there to cast them, each delegate having a fraction of a vote. Only 
105 of the 180 showed up at the caucus, and these voted to go to 
Roosevelt, according to the tally given out, by 54 to 51. The vote was 
taken amid great confusion. What If the 75 absentees had been present? 
How would they have voted? At least some of them were anti-Roosevelt 
to the last, were at the time working in other delegations for Garner 
and never heard of the caucus. Garner had got u votes from Oklahoma, 


bringing his total to 101. Other Oklahoma delegates were said to be 
ready to come his way. But whatever the technical, or the actual situa- 
tion, the convention floor record shows that Texas went to Roosevelt 
with all of its 46 votes. Texas and California gave Roosevelt all he 
needed. A flood tide of breaks from other states followed. Only the 
Smith men stood out to the last. 

When William G. McAdoo was recognized to announce that Garner 
had released his delegates, yowls and howls and hisses and boos from 
the galleries stopped all proceedings. Senator Walsh of Montana, the 
chairman, had to call on Mayor Ceraiak of Chicago to quiet his friends, 
which finally he did. 

While the angry demonstration was at its height, Will Rogers came 
to the press box and sat down beside me. He was low in spirit. 

"Here I have been neutral all my life until now," he said, "and the 
first time I come out for a man he throws his strength to a fellow with 
a Harvard accent. No good can come to a Texan who does a thing like 

Garner, in Washington, slept through the night of turmoil. He did 
not even listen to the radio. It was not until he saw newspapers the next 
morning that he knew his released delegates had brought about Roose- 
velt's nomination. 

Garner was nominated for the Vice-Presidency by acclamation. No 
other name was considered. But still, the Texans were not happy. 
Texas had been an enthusiastic Woodrow Wilson state, a League of 
Nations state, and many Texans resented Roosevelt's repudiation of 
the League in his February 2, 1932, speech before the New York State 
Grange. In this speech he had taken his stand "firmly and beyond 
equivocation" against American participation in the League. So the 
Texas delegates left Chicago with mixed feelings. They were glad to 
have a Texan on the national ticket, but were disappointed that he had 
the second place. 

"It's a kangaroo ticket," said Archie Parr, a veteran Texas political 
leader. "Stronger in the hind quarter than in front." 

Roosevelt flew to Chicago to accept the nomination, but Garner 
asked that formal notification be sent him by mail, and that the stale 
ceremonies be dispensed with. This was done, and Garner wrote a 
letter accepting the Vice-Presidential nomination. 

"Be sure to put a stamp on that letter," he said to his secretary. "It is 
not official business," 

Back in Washington after the convention debris was all cleaned up, 
I talked with Garner about the charges that he had swapped his 
delegates for the Vice-Presidential nomination. 

"I have something of a reputation as a trader," he said, "and 
that reputation would not be helped any by trading the second most 
important office in the nation for one which in itself is almost wholly 

"Then why did you do it?" I asked, 

"I am a Democrat. I believe the country needs the Democrats in 
power at this time. The convention was heading toward the 1924 
situation when McAdoo had around 500 delegates and Smith around 
300 and fifteen other men split up the remaining 250. If Roosevelt's 
strength had begun to break up on the fourth ballot, as it would 
have, I don't think any candidate could have got a two-thirds majority 
until after so bitter a contest that chances of winning the election 
would have ceased to exist. I did what I believed was best in the 
situation. But when I give up the Speakership I will give up a place 
wanted. The Speakership is a potent office regardless of who is Presi- 
dent. If I am elected Vice-President my hands will be tied because 
I'll be elected on the same ticket with the President." 

The Vice-Presidential nominee opposed any extensive speaking 
campaign for the party nominees in 1932. 

He told Roosevelt at their first meeting at Hyde Park: 

"All you have got to do is stay alive until election day. The people 
are not going to vote for you. They are going to vote against the 

He thought there was some advantage in Roosevelt making a tour. 
He felt the Presidential candidate's public appearances would end any 
talk that he was physically inadequate for the office. 

He amused himself offering wagers that no one could pick any 
combination of five states that the Republicans would carry. Although 
they carried six, no one had the right combinations and he won all 
his bets. 

When Garner reached New York in the autumn he found that no 
one from Democratic headquarters had talked to Al Smith. Garner 


Garner loomed as a compromise candidate for the Presidency 
in 1932, but rather than deadlock the convention he threw his 
strength to Roosevelt. (Bateman,, Fort Worth Record) 

called William J. Bray, who had grown up in the House cloakroom 
and of whom Garner was very fond. 

"Billy," he said, "if you'll find Governor Smith's office for me, I'll 
go have a visit with him." 

Bray said it would not be hard to find as he was in the highest 
building in the world. 

While Garner's entourage remained outside. Garner and Smith had 
a long conference. 

Smith afterward spoke in behalf of the Roosevelt-Garner ticket. 

Garner made an appearance before a group of businessmen in 
New York. He had been pictured in the East as a radical. When 
Garner concluded, he had not only convinced them he was not radical, 
but the diners gave him 120,000 for the Democratic campaign fund. 

He was called to Texas during the campaign because of the death of 
his eighty-two-year-old mother. 

He appeared with Roosevelt, at Topeka, Kansas, and made one radio 
speech himself. 

When the Democratic national committee asked him to make more 
he said that one per campaign was enough. A delegation composed 
of James A. Farley, Frank C. Walker, Bernard M. Baruch and 
Senators Swanson of Virginia; Pittman of Nevada; and Byrnes of 
South Carolina, called on him and argued with him for three hours 
that he should make speeches. Garner stuck to his decision. 

"Let's go on the principle of Captain Bill McDonald of the Texas 
Rangers," Garner said. "A riot was threatened in a Texas town and 
citizens wired to the Governor to send Rangers. Then they went to 
the station to meet the train. Bill McDonald got off. 

" 'What,' asked the leader of the citizen's group, 'just one Ranger?' 

" 'Well,' Bill McDonald drawled, 'there's just one riot ain't there?' ", 

In his radio speech in which he discussed taxation and government 
economy, Garner opened with a tribute to Nicholas Longworth. He 

"It was the proudest moment of my life when I became Speaker of 
the House. The pride I felt in attaining what I regarded as the most 
potent office in the government, with the exception of the Presidency, 
was mitigated with a sense of the responsibility it involved. This 
was particularly so because I succeeded a great Speaker and a great 

[ I7 o] 

man, my closest, dearest friend, Nick Longworth, a square-shooter 
if ever there was one and a Republican as devoted to the principles 
o his party as I hope I am to mine. We had our battles and there was 
an intellectual pleasure, you may be sure, in fighting one another. 
For Nick Longworth was a sportsman who played the game accord- 
ing to the rules. He conducted his battles fairly and cleanly and 

On the day Roosevelt and Garner carried forty-two of the forty- 
eight States, Garner's Texas district elected him to Congress for the 
sixteenth straight time. His nomination for Vice-President had come 
after Congressional nomination filing dates had closed. Consequently 
he conceivably could have been defeated for Vice-President and still 
been Speaker and now theoretically had his choice between the Speaker- 
ship and the Vice-Presidency. 

Actually, despite the fact that it was not the choice he would like 
to have made in the matter, his action was never in doubt. He resigned 
from Congress effective at noon, March 4, 1933. 

The depression which began in 1929 and continued all through the 
3o's and into the 40'$, reached its depth between the November election 
of 1932 and the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the following 

As conditions grew desperate President Hoover, Speaker Garner, 
Secretary of the Treasury Ogden L. Mills and Senate Democratic 
Leader Joseph T. Robinson met at the White House and agreed upon 
a plan which they believed would alleviate conditions and, especially, 
would check bank failures. 

Key to the plan was new taxes to make up an indicated deficiency 
Jbetween income and outgo, and passage of the Glass bill. The Glass 
bill did not guarantee bank deposits but provided a liquidating cor- 
poration to speed up payment to depositors in closed banks. It also con- 
tained other far-reaching bank reforms. 

Garner, Robinson and other Democratic leaders conferred with. 
Governor Roosevelt at Roosevelt's New York City home, 49 East 
Sixty-fifth Street and discussed the plan. On leaving the Roosevelt 
home Garner and Robinson told newspapermen of the agreement on 
the budget proposals, which paralleled their agreement with Hoover. 

Governor Roosevelt indicated to newspapermen he did not disapprove 
the plan. 

Garner called the proposed taxes "sound but painful." 

Two days afterward the New Yor^ Times called the Roosevelt- 
Garner-Robinson conference "inauspicious" and said "the conferees 
cannot agree what they agreed on." 

Actually Roosevelt a few days later told Garner he could not go 
along on the tax proposal. Garner went to Hoover and said : 

"For the first time in my life I find myself unable to carry out an 
agreement. Governor Roosevelt is opposed to what we have planned, 
and it is a waste of time to try any legislation to which he will not 

Hoover said that Roosevelt's cooperation was necessary. He con- 
tinued to- make proposals of various measures to Roosevelt up to in- 
auguration day, but there was no meeting of minds between the out- 
going and incoming Presidents. 

Scores of banks closed their doors between election and inauguration. 
A nation gripped in gloom greeted inauguration day. 


You -Can't Do Everything You Want To 

NEVER did a man make a transition from a job which he 
enjoyed to one he felt sure he would not like with such 
fanfare. Garner marched straight across to the north side 
of the Capitol to take the oath as Vice-President on March 4, 1933, 
And he did not march alone. 

Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, the only other man to have served both 
as Speaker and Vice-President of the United States, had resigned as 
Speaker the day before he took oath of office as Grant's first Vice- 

Garner, in contrast, gaveled the House over which he had presided 
to adjournment and then, with Speaker-choice Henry T. Rainey, 
Majority Leader-designate Joseph W. Byrns and Republican Leader 
Bertrand H. Snell abreast and a convoy of more than 400 members of 
the adjourned House and more than 150 members-elect, marched to the 
Senate Chamber. While his legislative escort found seats, Garner 
walked directly to the dais and took the gavel from Vice-President 

"The House of Representatives and General Garner are going across 
to take over the Senate," quipped Representative Loring M. Black 
of New York, as Garner and his company moved through the cor- 
ridors between the two legislative chambers. 

The House had ceremonies and the Democrats presented Garner with 
a watch. The retiring Speaker and incoming Vice-President made four 
addresses during the day. Three of them were in the House and one 
in the Senate, which was a record for Garner. The fact also that he 
spoke as the presiding officer of both branches of Congress in one day 
was a record which no man up to then or now had made. 


In his first talk, In response to the announcement of Minority 
Leader Snell that the electoral vote showed him elected Vice-President, 
Garner said: 

"I do not think it out of order for me to say publicly what I have 
said privately 1 would rather remain in the House of Representatives. 
I have enjoyed my service here. My ears and eyes and whatever intellect 
I have may be over there, but my heart will always be in the House." 

In his speech acknowledging the gift of a watch, he said : 

"Many journalists and some unthinking people in the land berate 
the Congress of the United States, especially the House. For the past 
two or three years I have given some study to the political history of 
this Republic, more so than I have all during my life heretofore. It 
is my deliberate judgment that there have been as able men in Congress 
in the last thirty years during which time I have served, as there have 
been in any Congress in the history of the Republic. There are as able 
men today in the House, in my opinion, as there have been in any 
Congress in our history. That is not partiality on my part. They do not 
stand out with the brilliancy they did sixty or seventy-five or a 
hundred years ago because for the last thirty years we have been 
living in a commercial age, in which we do not worship so much the 
intellect, the character and the statesmanship of men as we do their 
ability to accumulate the thing we worship today the almighty 

Snell then delivered the House's farewell to Garner. The Republican 
leader said: 

"No man has reached the elevation of Speaker of this House by mere 
accident. He must have proven to his associates that he has character, 
ability and experience. The present Speaker has so proven in marked 
degree. During the period he has presided, he has added luster not 
only to his own name, but to the House and to the country. He has 
always presided with candor, fairness, firmness and dispatch." 

Garner in reply gave another bit of his political belief. He said: 

"I believe in partisanship. I believe in party organization. I believe 
this country must be continued under the Constitution through political 
parties, and I doubt whether there can ever be more than two effective 
political parties in view of the fact that the premier [President] must be 
continued for four years. 

[ 174 ] 

BroQWyu Eagla. 

When Roosevelt aligned himself with the New Deal element 
of the party, cartoonists depicted Garner as the Lone Rider of 
the Democratic donkey. (Cassel, Brooklyn Eagle) 

"In some way it is to be regretted that the Republican membership 
in the incoming Congress will not be as large as in this. The best 
proposition for the House of Representatives, could it be arranged that 
way, is a majority of about fifty or sixty on one side, whether it 
be Republican or Democrat. By this I do not mean to say that I am 
not very happy, as a partisan and as a candidate for office in the last 
election, that the Democratic party gathered in as many of the brethren 

as it did. We are glad to have three hundred odd members in this 
House. I speak only o an ideal House, whether it be fifty or sixty 
Republican majority or fifty or sixty Democratic majority." 

In his speech to the Senate, Garner took a good-natured jab at the 
Senate rules which permit a Senator to speak to his heart's content 
on any sort o irrelevant subject. He said: 

"Senators, this is my first and possibly it may be my last opportunity 
to address the Senate. I am particularly anxious to ingratiate myself 
Into your favorable consideration. Knowing from some observation the 
disposition of the Senate not to discuss any matter unless it is important 
and under particular consideration, I deem it inappropriate to say more 
than that I come as your presiding officer to co-operate, to be helpful, 
to do the best I can, to help you conduct the proceedings of the 

Garner, never much of a worrier, may have been a little disturbed 
about how the Senate would receive him. He was a House man and 
had upheld the House end in many a stormy conference between the 
two branches. 

Between twenty and twenty-five of the Senators had been his col- 
leagues in the House, including Robinson, Harrison, Barkley, Glass, 
Byrnes, Sheppard, Connally, Norris and Tydings. Senator Bennett 
Clark of Missouri, son of the Speaker Champ Clark, Garner had known 
since Clark's boyhood. 

But Garner, who had called the Vice-Presidency a "no man's land 
somewhere between the legislative and executive branch," had been 
asked by President Roosevelt to attend and participate in Cabinet 
meetings. When presiding in the Senate he would be associating with 
the legislative branch; when attending Cabinet meetings, with the 
Executive. There was a chance that Senators with whom he had to 
work would resent that divided function. 

Of his immediate predecessors, Coolidge had been invited to attend 
Cabinet meetings and did so spasmodically. Dawes declined to go near 
one. Curtis did not go often. None of them had been more than 
observers. Actually, Curtis looked upon his office almost entirely as a 
social one. Garner knew he was not going to spend his time dining 
for his country. Protocol and the snubs and countersnubs of Washing- 
ton official society amused both him and Mrs. Garner. 

Garner accepted the invitation to attend Cabinet meetings under 
terms which he outlined: 

"I decided that in order to carry out such a responsibility I must 
make an agreement with the President-elect," he said. 'That agreement 
included three things: 

"In the first place, in order to serve the President and the country 
in that capacity, I did not feel I should make a public statement. I also 
suggested that we agree during my term in the Vice-Presidency and 
association in the Cabinet that I would not make any recommendation 
for public office unless I was asked for a recommendation. 

"The third part of the agreement was that I would not make any 
recommendation as to national policy unless I was asked." 

Just before he surrendered the gavel as Speaker, Garner called in 
newspapermen covering the House of Representatives for a final con- 
ference. At its conclusion, he said: 

"You have been coming in here every day. You have asked me a lot 
of questions and you have printed a lot about me. There hasn't been 
a more vociferous man in the country than I have been. I have been 
carrying on about Republican mismanagement and the combination of 
Morgan, Mellon and Mills sometimes throwing in Mammon for good 

"Somebody had to do this. We have not had much organization and 
no one in particular to speak for the party. So I took over the job and 
used whatever ammunition I had ready. It is different now. Tomorrow 
I am going over to the other side of the Capitol. I will always be glad 
to see you, but don't ask me to talk. That is not my job any more. The 
man who is moving into the White House will do the talking." 

Between his nomination the previous June and inauguration, Mr. 
Garner had told me why he considered the Speakership second only to 
the Presidency in the American scheme of government. 

"The Speakership is a place of great power and offers vast oppor- 
tunity for usefulness/' he said. "The power of the Speaker, of course, 
like all others under our form of government, should not be abused but 
used only in the furtherance of good legislation. When his party does 
not hold the Presidency the Speaker is its highest officeholder in the 
nation. When his party does hold the Presidency his responsibility is 
augmented. The Speaker can uphold the constitutional role of the 

House. As the ambassador of the most numerous branch of Congress 
lie can say as Speaker Longworth did to President Coolidge: 'The 
House will not do what you want, Mr. President. I am from the House 
and like yourself a constitutional officer.' In his parliamentary functions 
and duties he must insure rigid impartiality between the parties. As a 
political officer he is bound by the platform and declared policies of his 
party. If the Speaker blindly follows the leadership of the President, if 
he becomes the President's spokesman in the House instead of the 
spokesman of the House at the President's office, he contributes to the 
blending of the legislative and executive branches and the consequent 
degrading of Congress. 

"The Vice-President has no arsenal from which to draw power. 
He has no offices to bestow^ or favors to extend. He can make power 
for himself sometimes by his personality and ability. Only if by his 
association with men they come to have friendship for him and faith 
in and respect for his judgment can he be influential. He comes to the 
place through a national election and not as the choice of the majority 
of the Senators over whose sessions he presides. He may be the choice 
of just one man the Presidential candidate. He may be the after- 
thought of a convention worn out in a struggle over platform or weary 
after a Presidential contest. It is a great and honorable office because the 
Vice-President is the constitutional alternate of the President and stands 
ready to assume that office if there is a vacancy. Normally the Vice- 
President's only official duty is to preside over the Senate and those 
duties are easily transferred to the President pro tempore or to a Senator. 
He votes in case of a tie if he chooses to break the tie by an affirmative 
vote. But if it does not suit his pleasure he does not have to vote even in 
case of a tie," 

The bank holiday which greeted the new Administration called for 
quick legislation, and here the new President and Vice-President had 
their first disagreement. Roosevelt was against the guarantee of bank 
deposits and Garner favored it. 

As a matter of fact, their argument about this began shortly after 
the election and continued intermittently for weeks. As President of the 
National Press Club I sat between them at a dinner and heard their 
first argument. 

"It won't work, John," said Roosevelt. "You had it in Texas and it 

was a failure and so it was in Oklahoma and other states. The weak 
banks will pull down the strong. It's not a new idea, and it has never 

Garner replied: 

"You'll have to have it, Cap'n, or get more clerks in the Postal 
Savings banks. The people who have taken their money out of the 
banks are not going to put it back without some guarantee. A national 
guarantee can be made to work. Depositors are not going to run on 
banks which have a government insurance. It would be like making 
a run on the government itself, and the people know that the govern- 
ment coins money and issues currency." 

In the absence of a national system Garner wrote a letter to his son, 
Tully, personally guaranteeing every deposit in the two banks con- 
trolled by him. His guarantee prevented any withdrawal of deposits 
from his banks. 

Garner had first advocated government insurance of bank deposits 
in a joint debate with his Republican opponent at a gathering in 
Wilson County, Texas, in 1908. Shortly after he became Speaker, he 
urged Chairman Henry B. Steagall of the House Banking and Cur- 
rency Committee to make a study of it and see what could be done 
about getting a bill. 

In April, two months before either the Republican or Democratic 
national conventions, Steagall went into the Speaker's office and said 
to Garner: 

"You know, this fellow Hoover is going to wake up one day soon 
and come in here with a message recommending guarantee of bank 
deposits, and as sure as he does, hell be re-elected." 

Garner replied: 

"You're right as rain, Henry, so get to work in a hurry. Report out 
a deposit insurance bill and well shove it through." 

Steagall went to his office and prepared a bill and introduced it on 
April 14. Five days later the Banking and Currency Committee re- 
ported it out. Steagall then conferred with Speaker Garner and his 
Alabama colleague, Acting Chairman William B. Bankhead of the 
House Rules Committee. They decided to wait for a favorable time 
for its consideration. On May 25 it was made a special order of the 
day and passed after four hours' debate. 

Thus at the time of the National Press Club dinner the bill was 
already through the House and had been languishing in the Senate 
for six months. Because of Roosevelt's opposition Democrats let it 
die with the close of the session. 

About the time of Roosevelt's inauguration, Garner told me he 
hoped Roosevelt could be won over to the bank-guarantee proposal. 
He talked to Roosevelt as the President-elect lay in bed at the May- 
flower Hotel. 

"I was on one side of the bed and Gus Lonergan [Senator from 
Connecticut] sat on the other side," Garner related. "I told him I'd 
get Tom Love [ex-Texas bank commissioner and an Assistant Sec- 
retary of the Treasury and with Roosevelt a member of the little 
Cabinet in the Wilson administration] up here to tell him why it 
didn't work in Texas and as a state system elsewhere, but can be 
made to work as a national proposition." 

That disagreement between Roosevelt and Garner was amiable. 
But Roosevelt remained unconverted. At his first press conference as 
President on March 8, 1933, Roosevelt still opposed the plan. In the 
Senate, Senator Vandenberg of Michigan attached a bank-deposit 
guarantee to the Banking Act of 1933. President Roosevelt, still 
opposed, wrote to the Senate and House conferees saying, "I must 
again express to you my definite feeling that the Vandenberg amend- 
ment must be rejected in toto." The conferees left it in and both 
Houses passed the bill. The President signed it on June 16. 

A long time afterward. President Roosevelt reviewed the success 
of deposit insurance and recommended its extension. 

"This record amply justifies the confidence which we placed in 
deposit insurance as an effective means of protecting the ordinary 
bank depositor," the President said. 

When Garner read the statement he winked and said: 

"I see Roosevelt is claiming credit for the guarantee of bank 

Robinson, Harrison and others in the Senate welcomed Garner's 
assistance. He had legislative know-how and there was work enough 
for all. As the party's legislative tactician he operated from three 
offices, each office having a different purpose. In the Vice-President's 
room, a work of marble, gilt and walnut, just off the Senate Chamber, 


he held quick conferences, often just before roll-call time. This was a 
single room; there was no clerk or stenographer there, only a police- 
man at the door a six-foot-six, 300-pound giant, the biggest policeman 
in Washington. 

At the four-room suite in the Senate office building, Mrs. Garner and 
the Vice-President's clerical force held forth. She had always been 
his secretary and continued to be. He saw visitors there. He made no 
appointments for a specific time. A caller went there and waited his 
turn. He got to his office at seven-thirty in the morning. 

"If you get up early enough you can see him, but you can't get up 
early enough to persuade him/' Senator Pat Harrison said. 

By ironic circumstances Garner was the first Vice-President to 
occupy these luxurious quarters over which he had a heated argument 
with Senator Smoot. When the addition to the Senate office building 
was being planned, Garner as a member of the House opposed the 
plans for an ornate Vice-Presidential suite, a private entrance for the 
Vice-President and the so-called "Vice-President's Plaza." Smoot was 
in favor of the plan. 

The two men met on the conference committee called to resolve 
differences between the House and Senate versions and argued at 
length, with Garner contending it was too extravagant, but the con- 
ferees voted him down and Smoot had his way. 

The water from the tap in Garner's office was always warm., and 
Garner explained it this way: 

"It's been that way ever since Smoot left. He was so cold that he 
just had to put one hand on the pipes in his office of a morning and it 
refrigerated the whole building." 

Garner had moved the Board of Education over from the House 
side a week after he became Vice-President. The new location was in a 
part of the old Supreme Court Chamber. It had been used as the 
workroom for several Associate Justices and here many a learned 
jurist had wrestled with his soul and his syntax in majority or dis- 
senting court opinions. 

For the use to which Garner put it there was nothing more formal 
in the way of furnishings than a table, a few straight chairs, a cup- 
board and an ice-water cooler. The chairs were purposely none too 
comfortable. It could be a place of hospitality and felicity. Or it could 


be what Senator Nathan Bachman of Tennessee called it: "The Dog 
House." When it was used as a place to help a wandering Democrat 
see the light, the sessions usually were brief. Conversion ordinarily 
could be achieved in from ten to twenty minutes. A good deal of 
the real business of the Senate was consummated there. After any ses- 
sion a "blow for liberty" might be struck. 

Members of the House came over to the Board of Education, too. 
Some of the legislation from the first was pretty strong medicine for 
the Democrats. This is a typical talk. Garner made it to a balking 
Southern member of the House. 

"Sometimes conditions in a country justify temporary violations of 
deep principles of government. If there was ever such a time it is 
now. I know that in grants of power you have the historical fact that 
executives always surrender a granted power with great reluctance. 

"Roosevelt is traveling one of the roughest roads any President 
ever traveled. When there's war you have an enemy to shoot at. But 
today we have deflation, unemployment and human suffering. The 
last thing I would want to do would be to even lift a straw that would 
hinder his progress. It looks [April 20] as if things are starting up. 
Stocks advanced, wheat is up. For the first time in a long time there 
is an optimistic market. 

"Apparently the gods are with Roosevelt. From the way he has 
started he can be one of our greatest Presidents. There is one thing 
about the man: he has courage. There is another thing I have found 
about him. He may think he is right, but if you can show him con- 
vincing facts and figures, he'll change his mind. He isn't like my good 
friend Carter Glass. No one can help but like that old rooster, but 
once Glass gets a notion in his head, neither hell nor Woodrow Wilson 
could change him. 

"Now this bill you are talking about isn't going through as it was 
proposed, I told the President it could not be justified economically 
and he is not going to write a message on it. 

"But, as to your vote, look back and see what happened to the 
Democrats in the Senate who opposed Wilson on war measures and 
on the League of Nations: Kirby of Arkansas; Vardaman of Missis- 
sippi; Shields of Tennessee; Gore of Oklahoma and Hardwick of 
Georgia. Since the Civil War the Democratic party has been principally 

a party of opposition. The few times we have been in, the South has 
been mighty proud to have a Democratic President. They want you to 
support him where you conscientiously can, to yield something maybe 
to do it in times like these when none of us know just what will work. 
If I were you, I would vote with the President on this and everything 
else I could if my conscience would let me at all. 

"I think it is good politics and it is patriotism to do it. We are pass- 
ing through a period of experimentation. No one knows which ones, 
but on some of these things the President will be right and on some 
he will be wrong. Remember he has been candid. On farm relief, for 
instance, he said that he might be wrong; but, if wrong he would be 
the first to acknowledge it. You can't help but admire a man like 

"Now suppose you are in a campaign. Your opponent asks you if 
you voted for such and such a measure. You reply that you did not. 
That statement that you voted against your party at a time like this 
will carry more weight than all the arguments you can command. 
On the other hand: suppose your opponent says you voted for this 
measure and it has proved a detriment. You can say that you did 
vote for it; that by a majority of seven million votes Mr. Roosevelt 
was put in office. Then, go on and add that the President said fre- 
quently that we were passing through an experimental state; that, in 
view of this, you did not feel that you should do anything to embarrass 
the Chief Executive. 

"And here's the answer. If Roosevelt succeeds in getting this country 
out of this depression, all hell couldn't beat you. If he should fail, you, 
in the bottom of your heart, might feel that maybe your lack of sup- 
port might have contributed to his failure. Whether it did or not 
neither you nor anyone else could tell. Of course, it could be at- 
tributed to you and others like you, who failed to support him. But 
the fact remains that if Mr. Roosevelt succeeds in getting this country 
out of the depression as I believe he is going to, your greatest cam- 
paign asset will be your ability to say 1 put my shoulder to the 
wheel and helped him all I could.' You are young enough to be 
my son. If I had to campaign I would stake my chances on support- 
ing the President." 

Talks such as Garaer had with this young Representative were 

never revealed. But if the Vice-President was publicly silent he was 
privately vocal. The Administration consulted him about everything. 
When he objected to a policy or a piece of legislation, he made his 
objections in a salty way which gave no offense. 

The one-hundred-day special session from March 9 to June 16 
took up the sweeping recovery program. It was this special session 
which gave Roosevelt broader powers than any peacetime President 
had ever had. It included the power: 

To establish control over all industry minimum wages, maximum 
hours, regulation of production, etc., in N.R.A. 

To set up a system of government licenses for business if necessary 
to assure compliance with N.R.A. 

To institute and direct through a Public Works Administrator a 
$4,400,000,000 public-works program. 

To invoke World War I powers to regulate transactions in credit, 
currency, gold and silver even to embargo gold or foreign exchange 
and to fix restrictions on the banking business of the Federal Reserve 

To eliminate old veterans' compensation plans and set up an entirely 
new pension system. 

To reduce salaries of government employees up to 15 per cent if 

To transfer, eliminate, consolidate or revise bureaus in the executive 

To repeal by executive proclamation (when suitable) new taxes voted 
under the Industrial Recovery Act. 

To publish heretofore secret information re income-tax returns. 

To inflate the currency by devaluing the gold dollar as much as 
50 per cent, issuing U. S. notes up to $3,000,000,000 or accepting up to 
$200,000,000 in silver in payment of Allied war debts. 

To employ more than 250,000 young men annually in reforestation 

To appoint a co-ordinator of railroads. 

To appoint a Tennessee River Valley Authority. 

Some of the ideas were revolutionary, but Garner was a man willing 
to go a long way with a new idea. He had heard himself classified both 


as a conservative and as a progressive. He regarded himself as a 

N.R.A. was one piece of legislation about which he had great 
misgivings. He said: 

"It is a moony adventure and I don't think it will work, but 
I am willing to see it tried. You probably can put the big industries 
under codes, but you can't manage the business of the whole country 
from Washington. If it is not administered right it can become a mo- 
nopolistic, cartelizing scheme." 

Of the laws enacted, the Security Market and Holding-Company 
regulations were his favorites. The Holding Company Act, he said, 
would have been enacted by any administration in power in 1933. 
A study of holding companies had been inaugurated by the House 
Interstate Commerce Committee, headed by Representative James S. 
Parker of New York, a Republican. 

As justification for going along with some legislation, the wisdom 
of which he was doubtful, Garner said: 

"I sat in on conferences both at the White House and with Con- 
gressional leaders on these bills. On some of them I got modifications. 
When you do those things in party government you have to take 
some parts you do not like. Party policy is the composite judgment 
of the party obtained in elections, conventions, caucuses and con- 
ferences. There must be discipline and responsibility and when a 
program is decided on everybody has to fall into line." 

Without making much ado about it, Garner began a process of 
hurrying up the proceedings of the Senate. It is a body which has 
always liked leisurely debate. 

His speed plan was: After a bill had been read and before a 
Senator had time to clear his throat, adjust his papers and call for 
recognition, Garner in rapidly tumbling words would say: 

"The question is: Shall the bill be erigrossed, read the third time 
and passed. There being no objection the bill is passed." 

Garner said his procedure was strictly according to the rules and if 
Senators were not alert "that is their hard luck. It is a quick way to 
do business. If a bill is pending and there is no objection to its passage, 
why shouldn't the Vice-President say, 'Without objection, the bill is 

A few times he received minor criticism for gavelmg through legisla- 
tion so fast it took the Senate's breath. A few times he made tart obser- 
vations from the chair. 

Senator Huey Long, in the middle of a filibuster against N.R.A., 
called on the Vice-President to require that all Senators stay and hear 
him talk. Garner who had no admiration for Long's oratory, shot 

"In the first place the Senator from Louisiana should not ask that. In 
the second place, it would be cruel and unusual punishment." 

Once Garner and Will Rogers were chatting in the Vice-President's 
office just before the Senate convened. Senator Robert M. La Follette 
came in and quietly asked to be recognized shortly after the Senate 

A few minutes later Long stormed in and demanded recognition. 
Garner made no promise to either La Follette or Long. After Long 
had left, Garner turned to Rogers, and said: 

"Will, sometimes I think the hearing in my right ear and the vision 
in my right eye isn't as good as it used to be. Long sits on my right 
and La Follette on my left. A man has to be fair in this job and bad 
vision or hearing can handicap him. I may not be able to hear or see 
Huey this morning." 

When the Senate convened, both La Follette and Long were on their 
feet asking recognition. La Follette mildly and Long fairly shouting. 
Garner recognized La Follette. 

At the end of the session Senator Borah broke Senate precedent by 
putting in a resolution praising Garner's fairness as a presiding officer. 
The Senate adopted it by a unanimous rising vote and gave Garner 
an ovation. 

Borah said: 

"The session just closing has been a most arduous one, more so, 
I believe than any I have attended with the possible exception of those 
during the war period. 

"I think I speak the sentiments of all members of this body when 
I say that we profoundly appreciate the fairness, the impartiality and 
the ability with which the Vice-President has presided over the 
proceedings of the Senate at this session. To the end that we may have 
this expression in permanent form, I ask for the reading of the resolu- 
tion which is upon this desk." 


"Resolved: That the Senate hereby expresses its profound apprecia- 
tion of the vigilance, impartiality and distinguished ability 
with which the Vice-President, Honorable John N. 
Garner, has presided over the proceedings of this body 
during the eventful session now drawing to a close.'* 

Replying from the chair. Garner said: 

"Senator Borah, Senator Robinson, members of the Senate, I hope 
you will indulge me for just a moment to say that when I came from 
the House of Representatives to the Senate to preside over it, I felt a 
very great weakness, as it were. I was apprehensive that I could not 
preside in the Senate as I had in the House of Representatives and I 
am not so certain that I have been so successful here as I was in the 

"I do appreciate this expression of your confidence. I may have been 
a little hasty at times, but on every occasion, Senators, I have under- 
taken to protect the rights of each individual Senator. So long as I 
shall preside over the Senate, I hope to be able to facilitate the 
business of the Senate, but in doing so, I assure you that it will be 
my desire to protect the rights of every Senator; and that is one of 
the obligations of the presiding officer. I am appreciative of this 
resolution and I wish you all health and happiness until next 

Carter Glass remained his intimate and his most frequent com- 
panion at baseball games, Garner's favorite recreation. He called Glass 
his private scorekeeper, but said he was an unsatisfactory one: 

"Carter scores too many errors and not enough hits," Garner ex- 

Garner nearly always had as many as three Senators with him at a 
ball game. 

"When there are three you'll notice there are usually two Republicans 
and a Democrat," he said. "I am not going to get caught like Dawes 

During Dawes's term as Vice-President, President Coolidge sent 
the nomination of Charles F. Warren of Michigan to the Senate to 
succeed Harry Daugherty as Attorney General. Dawes was asleep at 
the Willard Hotel when the vote on confirmation was taken and it 
failed by a tie vote. 

Garner, who was an afternoon sleeper, too, had a sleeping couch in 

f rfa 1 

the Vice-President's office. His explanation of this and two Republicans 
to one Democrat at a ball game was: 

"The ball park is about the same distance from the Senate Chamber 
as the Willard Hotel One of Dawes's forebears rode with Paul Revere, 
and if he couldn't make it with that kind of ancestry, I couldn't. One 
of the Republicans I take offsets the Democrat on a roll call and the 
other offsets me if it is a tie vote." 

Garner in his eight years as Vice-President was called on only 
twice to vote. In 1933, he broke a 42-42 tie on a Connally amendment 
to an appropriation bill and in 1934, a tie on a motion of Senator 
Borah to take up certain legislation in the Senate. As Speaker, he 
cast a vote to break a 169-169 tie of an amendment to his own public- 
works bill. 

Once at a ball game, Senator Frederick H. Brown of New Hamp- 
shire coaxed Garner into a ten-dollar bet. Garner lost. It was the 
biggest bet he ever lost on a game and he didn't like it. Garner started 
to pay off. 

"I tell you what I would like to have you do," said Brown. "I'd 
like to have you autograph this ten-dollar bill. I'd like to frame it and 
give it to my grandson." 

"Do you mean you are not going to spend it?" 

"No, I want to frame it," said Brown. 

"If I gave you a check would you cash that?" Garner asked. 

"No, I would frame it," Brown said. 

"Then I will give you a check instead of the cash," Garner said. 

A Vice-President can shed his presiding duties by the simple act 
of beckoning a Senator to the chair. Garner knew how to wander 
around the Senate Chamber during a zigzaggy debate while someone 
else presided and sit down in the seat next to a wavering Senator at 
exactly the right time to come up with that Senator's vote on the 
subsequent roll call. 

Garner liked to give new Senators a chance to preside. Senator 
Elbert H. Thomas, Utah, said: 

"The first time I saw Vice-President Garner was just after my 
election, I had never seen him before and neither had he seen me or 
any of the new Senators who accompanied me. Yet he called each one 
of us by name. 


"It made us feel warm and friendly right from the start and it also 
made us feel important in Washington, Two or three days later the 
Vice-President handed me the gavel and told me to preside over the 
Senate. He wanted the new Senators to become familiar with parlia- 
mentary procedure and his method was to give them the job of 
presiding as President pro tempore, while he went out for lunch or 
a smoke. 

"The parliamentarian took good care of us whenever a question 
of procedure arose but it did make us go back to our offices and bone 
up on parliamentary law and the rules of debate in the Senate, 
which is what Garner wanted us to do." 

One of Garner's close friends was Senator Jesse Houghton Metcalf 
of Rhode Island, reputedly the richest man in the Senate. Garner called 
Metcalf "Old Plute." Another close Republican friend was Republican 
Leader Charles L. McNary of Oregon. 

Once Garner went on an automobile outing with a group of Senators. 
There were four cars. In the first was Senator Bachman of Tennessee. 
On the Virginia-North Carolina line they were halted at a Japanese 
beetle inspection station. 

Bachman told the inspector to be sure to watch out for a car con- 
taining an old man with white eyebrows, who would be riding in the 
front seat with the chauffeur. He said he wanted to warn the inspector 
in advance. 

"The old man is mean as hell and he was bragging up the road 
a way that he could put anything over on you inspectors. He's got a 
trunk full of plants. He'll deny it, but do your duty and make him 
open up the trunk." 

Bachman drove off behind a barn to watch. When Garner drove up 
he stuck his head out of the window and said he had no plants. 

"Oh, yes/' said the inspector. "Well, I'll take a look anyhow." He 
delayed the Vice-President a full fifteen minutes. 

Garner made no comment to Bachman and told the other men in 
the car not to mention it. 

That night it was very obvious Garner knew who was responsible 
for the trick. Bachman paid heavily for it in a poker game. 

Senator Borah of Idaho spent a great deal of time in Garner's office. 


Once Garner lamented the fact that he had not had more scholastic 
and law-school training. 

"If you had probably you would have been a -good constitutional 
lawyer and there are too many constitutional lawyers around here now/' 
Borah said. 

When gold was taken out of circulation Garner lamented the fact 
that he would have to break a long custom of sending a present of it 
to a constituent, he said, giving the man's name: 

"Bill carried a county for me the first time I ran for Congress. 

No one thought he could do it. He is the father of seventeen children. 
Each Christmas I have been sending him $50 in $2.50? gold pieces. He 
needs it and I like to send it. 

"The people I cherish most are those friends who supported me the 
first time I ran for Congress. It has been the pride of my life that the 
ones who supported me the first time have voted for me every time 

At the end of the record-breaking. loo-day legislative session, Garner 
headed for Texas for his first vacation since President Hoover called 
him to Washington, for the moratorium conference in October 1931. 

Hugh Johnson had been appointed administrator a day or two before 
and was setting up N.RA. 

"I am going to get out of my hotel rooms and let some of the eco- 
nomic midwives have them," Garner said. "A half-dozen of them are 
sleeping in the lobby now waiting for me to get out." 

In Texas, he made the most extensive tour of the states he had made 
in several years. With him he had Postmaster General Farley, Jesse H. 
Jones, Arnon Carter and Will Rogers. Rogers wrote in his syndicated 

"We went on out to the beautiful little city of Uvalde, where John 
Garner lives. They had a little speaker's stand out at the field and we 
ail made speeches. Garner the best one, for he was at home. He appre- 
ciates his people and they appreciate him. 

"You know Garner is quite a man. 

"Lots of people might not realize what a capable man we have as 
Vice-President. Do you realize he was the dominant Democrat of the 
House of Representatives for twenty years? He engineered, or helped 
to, every bit of legislation that went through Congress. 

"Not a man living is as well posted on all affairs of this government 
as Jack Garner. God forbid that anything should happen to our Chief, 
but the fellow that thinks Garner couldn't carry on in great shape is 

"Nick Longworth told me ten years ago that Garner is the smartest 
man in either the Senate or House. There hasn't been a shot fired that 
Garner didn't know what the shooting, was about." 

After the loo-day session of Congress, Garner thought there could be 
a little more deliberation in the passing of legislation. He was not 
wholly happy about the Wagner Labor Relations Act. He believed labor 
legislation was necessary , but distrusted legislation that played favorites. 

"The principal obligation of government," he declared, "established 
in accordance with American principles and traditions, is to protect 
all the people in the free enjoyment of the fruits of their labor and the 
pursuit of happiness." 

He continued : "It takes a good many laws to meet modern conditions 
even under that philosophy. But the Wagner bill is one sided, makes 
government a partisan of labor, and in its effort to stop the exploitation 
of labor has in it the seeds of exploitation of capital. This, however, can 
be cured by amendment. It will be tested in court, of course. So give it 
its day in court and in experience. 

"My ideal, and I think the ideal of all true Democrats, has been to 
make the Democratic party an instrument of good government for all 
the people. The first and chief task of the government is to establish 
justice. The belief of my party has always been, as I understood it, that 
a government is not just which has either favorites or victims. I don't 
want the Democratic party to be an organized labor party or an organ- 
ized capitalists' party, and this law can be administered in a way to 
make our party the organized labor party." 

To a Texan who wrote to him protesting that some acts of the 
Administration were apostasy to Democratic principles, Garner replied: 

"You can't do everything you want to, and I can't do half of what 
I would like to do. You can't control everybody you would like to, and 
I am in the same fix." 

When the neutrality bill was pending, he told me: 

"My position may be unpopular and I recognize the good motives 
behind this legislation but I think international law and usages and 

precedents are enough. I think a neutrality law will get us into more 
trouble than it will keep us out of. No body of men can draft a law 
that will cover every war threat. That being the case, it is better not 
to have a law on the statute books that will fetter the hands of the 
government in its relations with foreign countries." 

Gamer liked the people he worked with in the Senate. Robinson, 
Harrison, Barkley and Byrnes he considered the best combination of 
legislative workmen he had ever known. 

The Vice-President never seemed to be physically or mentally tired. 
His good humor kept the Senate in good humor. There was a new 
story or anecdote about him every week. His language was picturesque 
but seldom as sulphurous as it was quoted. 

Garner was what he was. One could like him or leave him alone. The 
Senate liked him and he liked the Senate. He was doing very well in 
the office he did not want. 

[! 9 2] 


Mr. Common Sense 

A FOR his role at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the 
Capitol: Garner attended the Cabinet meetings at the White 
House diligently and participated in the discussions. It was in 
his capacity as an adviser to the President rather than the presiding 
officer of the Senate that he had his second serious disagreement with 
Roosevelt in the first four years of their association as President and 

This one concerned the advisability of the diplomatic recognition of 
Russia. Roosevelt opened the subject rather casually as Garner was 
preparing to leave for Texas at the end of the loo-day special session 
of Congress. The general understanding was that Russia wanted "un- 
conditional recognition" with the question of debts to the United 
States, Comintern propaganda for the overthrow of the American 
government and other questions to be discussed later. 

The President of the United States has absolute authority in diplo- 
matic recognition of other nations. But it was a question on which 
Garner had emphatic views. It had arisen periodically ever since the 
Wilson administration. Wilson turned the Soviets down flat. Harding, 
Coolidge and Hoover carried on this policy. Four Secretaries of State 
Colby, Hughes, Kellogg and Stirnson had washed their hands of the 
recognition matter until Russia fulfilled a number of obligations, in- 
cluding the cessation of agitation for the overthrow of the American 
government by force. 

Garner thought former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, in 
a letter to Russian Foreign Commissar Chicherin, made a correct 
appraisal of the situation when he said: 

"If the Soviet authorities are ready to restore the confiscated property 

[ 193 ] 

of American citizens or make effective compensation, they can do so. 
If the Soviets are ready to repeal their decree repudiating Russia's 
obligations to this country and appropriately recognize them, they 
can do so. It requires no conference or negotiations to accomplish 
these results, which can and should be achieved at Moscow, as evidence 
of good faith. The American government has not incurred liabilities 
to Russia or repudiated obligations. Most serious is the propaganda to 
overthrow the institutions of this, our country. This government can 
enter into no negotiations until these efforts directed from Moscow 
are abandoned." 

When Roosevelt broached the subject the Vice-President vigorously 
opposed it. He reviewed his dealing with this problem both as a 
member of the Ways and Means Committee considering the refund- 
ing operations recommended by the War Debt Commission, and as a 
member of the House. Garner had voted against the British, French, 
Italian, Greek, Rumanian and other war-debt settlements because he 
believed they were unfair to the American taxpayers. But they had 
at least acknowledged the debts, he said. 

Russia, on the other hand, not only had never acknowledged its 
obligation to repay the net of more than $300,000,000 left of the Keren- 
sky debt and the more than $400,000,000 in American private claims 
for the confiscation of property. The Soviets actually had issued a 
decree repudiating these obligations. Garner told the President that, 
in his view, the Comintern was just as active in 1933 as it had been at 
any time In the twelve years of its existence, and that the Russian 
government was just as little disposed to acknowledge its debts. He 
did not want to give such a regime the prestige of American recogni- 

"I'd hate to see you get off on the wrong foot on this Russian busi- 
ness," Garner told the President. "I'd bide my time on it. I think the 
country and the bulk of the Democratic party are opposed to it. What 
support there Is for it seems pretty tepid, and the opposition, includ- 
ing the churches and some important people in the American Fed- 
eration of Labor, are hot against It. But regardless of the sentiment 
for or against it, I don't think it is right. If this outfit has kept its 
word to anyone or done anything in good faith I have not heard about 

[ 194] 

Garner gaveled legislation through the Senate so fast as to 
amaze that body and the public. The Senate had a reputation 
for being frostily aloof from Vice Presidents. (C. K. Berryman, 
Washington Star} 

Garner knew of no Democratic leader who was strongly in favor 
of Russian recognition except Henry T. Rainey, who had succeeded 
him as Speaker. 

"My considered judgment," Garner told the President, "is that the 
United States will gain nothing by recognizing them and may lose a 
lot. Even from the dollar-diplomacy standpoint, I don't think it can 
be justified. I don't think Russia has any ability to buy from us. We 
would have to furnish the credit for any purchasing they did. 

"I doubt if more than 2 per cent of the Russian people belong to 
the Communist party. I think Kerensky and his followers were the 
only hope the Russian people had for self-government or will have in 
your or my lifetime. These Communists have established a stable gov- 
ernment. There is no doubt about that.* But they have done it by one 

blood purge after another, behind closed doors, and of which the 
world has had very slim reports. I wouldn't be in any hurry to recog- 
nize that sort of regime. Maybe the best way to get along with them 
is to let them alone." 

Garner left Washington convinced that Roosevelt was intent on the 
diplomatic recognition and would find an opportunity for conversa- 
tions with the Soviet government just as soon as possible. The Vice- 
President thought it was LitvinofFs speech before the World Economic 
Conference in London, a week or so before the conversation between 
the President and Vice-President, that had rewhetted Roosevelt's 
desire to recognize Russia. Litvinoff had said that under given con- 
ditions the Soviet government "might agree to place orders abroad 
in the near future in the sum of about one billion dollars." 

The commodities Russia might take he listed as "ferrous metals; 
materials for the textile, leather and rubber industries, machinery, 
railway equipment, breeding stock, consumers' goods and new ships." 
Billion-dollar orders didn't grow on trees in those deep depression 
years, but Garner felt the whole Litvinoff speech had been a hazy 
affair, and doubted whether any Russian order for goods would 

The Vice-President had no other opportunity to talk to Roosevelt 
on the matter before he read in the newspapers of the October 10 letter 
in which Roosevelt told President Kalinin of Russia that he would 
like to end the "present abnormal relations" between the countries, 
and added: "I should be glad to receive any representatives you may 
designate to explore with me personally all questions outstanding be- 
tween our countries." 

Garner took special notice of the words "with me personally." 

Kalinin replied on October 17, along the Russian line of "uncon- 
ditional recognition," Whether or not he was a figurehead, Kalinin's 
short letter was a very clever one. He had always held the opinion 
that the situation between the two countries was "abnormal and regret- 
table. ... I am glad to note you also have reached the same con- 

Kalinin said that there was no doubt that the difficulties, present 
or arising between the two countries, "can be solved only when direct 
relations exist between them; and that, on the other hand, they have 


no chance of solution in the absence of such relations" (Italics added.) 

Kalinin also said: 

"I shall take the liberty further to express the opinion that the ab- 
normal relations, to which you correctly refer in your message, have 
an unfavorable effect not only on the interest of the two states con- 
cerned, but on the general international situation, increasing the 
element of disquiet, complicating the processes of world peace and 
encouraging forces tending to disturb that peace." 

Kalinin named M. M. LitvinofJ, People's Commissar of Foreign 
Affairs, as his representative. Litvinoff was instantly ready to leave 
for the United States. He arrived in Washington on November 8, 
and had two conferences at the State Department with Secretary Hull 
and lunch with President Roosevelt. On the following day he con- 
ferred at the State Department, but from then on he seemed to be 
following the terms of the Roosevelt October 10 letter to confer "with 
me personally? 

On November 10, Roosevelt and Litvinoflf talked for one hour 
at noon and three hours at night. On November n, Armistice Day, 
Litvinoff was with State Department officials for an hour or two. On 
November 12, Roosevelt and Litvinoff had a two-hour night talk. 
November 15, Roosevelt and Litvinoff conferred for forty-five minutes. 
On November 16, they conferred for two hours and at ten minutes 
before midnight agreed on recognition. 

The sequence of the correspondence given out pointed to a victory 
for Russia on "unconditional recognition." The first letter from Roose- 
velt to LitvinofJ of less than one hundred words announced that the 
United States had decided to establish normal diplomatic relations 
with Russia. Litvinoff, in an even shorter letter, replied in wording 
similar to Roosevelt's. 

There followed, dated the same day, five letters from Litvinoff to 
Roosevelt and four from Roosevelt to Litvinoff and also a joint state- 
ment signed by both. 

There were some strange paragraphs, such as the first one in Lit- 
vinoff's opening letter to "respect scrupulously the indisputable right 
of the United States to order its own life within its own jurisdiction 
in its own way and to refrain from interfering in any manner in 
the internal affairs of the United States." 


Litvinoff, according to widespread reports around town at the 
time, was almost defiant when in his relatively brief conversation 
with Hull, the American Secretary of State attempted to discuss the 
Comintern. At any rate, it is definitely known that LitvinofT: con- 
tended that the Comintern had no government affiliation or backing, 
and in his agreement signed with President Roosevelt did not mention 
this progapanda organization and merely promised to "restrain all 
persons in Government service and all organizations in receipt of 
financial assistance from it, from any act overt or covert liable in any 
way whatsoever to injure the tranquillity, prosperity, order or security 
of the whole or any part of the United States." 

LitvinofT: went back to Moscow without any agreement on the 
$800,000,000 of United States claims for public and private debts 
against Russia and no settlement on them has ever been reached. 
President Roosevelt, happy at concluding the resumption of diplomatic 
relations between the two countries, said in a letter to LitvinofT: 
on November 22, 1933 which, incidentally, was Garner's sixty-fifth 
birthday that "the co-operation of the two governments in the 
great work of preserving peace should be the cornerstone of an endur- 
ing friendship." 

Garner's comment on all this was: 

"It's all through and the dishes wiped as far as I am concerned. 
I hope it turns out better than I think it will. Every other civilized 
country in the world has given American citizens better protection 
than Russia. It may open the 'Closed door.' " (Note: Garner was refer- 
ring to the "closed door" as the "iron curtain" is now referred to.) 

"If we have acquiesced in the Comintern and given it opportunity 
to work unhampered in this country, we may be inviting trouble. This 
outfit wants to pull down our government and every government in 
South America and every capitalistic government everywhere. In time 
of a depression such as this, when millions of people are out of work, 
it looks like a poor time to invite in organized and disciplined 

Garner was inclined to think from the letters that the discussions 
had been superficial and that the nine days between LitvinofFs arrival 
on November 8 and the agreement on November 16 constituted undue 
speed for negotiations of such consequence, although Litvinoff in 

Berlin on his way to the United States had flippantly said that the 
whole thing could be settled in thirty minutes. 

Stalin, the real Russian leader then as now, appeared nowhere in the 
negotiations for American recognition, nor did his chief deputy, 
Molotov; Kalinin, nominal head of the state, appeared mainly in 
the naming of Litvinoff as envoy. Garner believed Roosevelt, head of 
state, should not have dealt with a Russian representative of secondary 

The Vice-President did not accept LitvinofPs contention that the 
Russian government had no responsibility for the Comintern, inas- 
much as of the ten members of the Politboro, the Communist party 
steering committee, two were the most prominent members of the 
executive committee of the Comintern. These were Molotov, presi- 
dent of the People's Commissars, and Joseph Stalin, then secretary 
general of the party. 

Garner never ceased to think the recognition of Russia was one of 
the most fateful actions of our history, and that we may have bolstered 
the Communists in a time of their great weakness. 

Events of the following years did not change his attitude. To him 
they were Tartars bent on conquest. Just after Russia's brutal moving 
in for her part of the swag in Poland, after the German invasion, 
he said to President Roosevelt: 

"You haven't much choice, Cap'n. Either Hitler or Stalin would 
conquer and subjugate the world. Hitler by force and Stalin by 
chicanery, corruption, treachery and undermining." 

But if Roosevelt brushed aside Garner's advice on Russia he did not 
on Cuba. One day in 1933, during the series of uprisings which drove 
President Machado out of the Cuban Presidential Palace and in rapid 
succession put the De Cespedes, San Martin, Hevia and Mendieta 
administrations in and out of office, Roosevelt called Garner at Uvalde 
to get the benefit of the Vice-President's perspective and cool head. 

Garner was out feeding his chickens when the telephone call came. 
The President waited on the line while the Vice-President cornered, 
caught and penned an obstreperous bantam rooster which was running 

After Roosevelt explained the situation, he asked: 

"What do you think we ought to do, Jack?" 

Garner replied: 

Td keep out of Cuba." 

"But suppose an American citizen is shot?" the troubled President 

'Td wait and see which American it was, and how come he was 
shot," Garner replied. "Then I'd try to handle it so no more were 
shot I'd let them know mighty quick that I wasn't aiming to have 
any more Americans shot and there had better not be." 

Intervention, it turned out, was not necessary. 

In 1935, Garner went to represent the United States government at 
the setting up of the Philippine Commonwealth and the installation 
of Manuel Quezon as its President. It was a particularly pleasant 
mission for Garner. In his first Congressional platform in 1902, he 
had favored Philippine independence. 

At Victoria, British Columbia, he made an eight-and-a-half minute 
speech, which his colleagues on the trip considered a long speech for 
him. It was off-the-record. 

The party went on to Japan, visiting Yokohama, Kobe and Tokyo. 
Garner got information that the Emperor intended to receive only 
him and not Speaker Joe Byrns, who was also a member of the party. 
Garner insisted that Byrns go with him and to this the Japanese 
reluctantly agreed. 

In his conversation with the Emperor, Garner told him that the 
Speakership was a more important office than the Vice-Presidency. 

Both Garner and Byrns said they had no intention of taking their 
shoes off when being introduced to the Emperor. He was the highest- 
ranking American official ever to visit Japan, and as a representative 
of this government he wanted to be received in the American way. 
Word came back that the distinguished foreign visitors were not re- 
quired to remove their shoes. 

The Vice-President walked across the highly polished wooden 
floors of the Emperor's palace wearing high-laced black shoes which 
looked as if they needed shining. They were very dusty, for he had 
walked to Meija Shrine with Mrs. Garner and other members of the 
party. He wore a cutaway and striped trousers. 

Garner made no speeches in Japan and the only formal event he 
attended was a stiff luncheon given by Foreign Minister Koki 


Hiroti for the Vice-President and the Speaker. The Foreign Minister 
luncheon was attended by Premier Kiesuke Okada, War Minister 
Yoshiyuki, Prince lyesato Tokugawa, Prince Konoye, President of the 
House of Peers and other Japanese officials. 

There were some unpleasant episodes. An automobile party of Rep- 
resentative Bert Lord of New York was accused of taking a picture 
of a fortified zone and was detained for questioning, and police on 
another occasion took three cigars out of the pocket of Senator Tram- 
mell of Florida, as he was reboarding the ship. These things nettled 
Garner when he heard of them. 

In China they met with such a wholehearted and cordial reception 
in Hong Kong and Shanghai that Garner said: 

"Now, these are our kind of people." 

As the first Roosevelt term drew to a close, the President apparently 
felt that Garner was selfless, referred to him as "Mr. Common Sense" 
and found him versatile and useful. 

Garner's conception that silence was the role the makers of the 
Constitution had in mind for the Vice-Presidency did not work out so 
well for him. He said: 

"I can render better service for the country and this Administra- 
tion if my name never gets in the paper." 

Although he made no speeches his purported stand on every issue 
was printed or gossiped. 

Once he said: 

"I think you newspaper fellows try to get at the truth by writing 
things to see if 1 will deny them. You can't entice me. I never have or 
never will deny or affirm such things." 

And he did not deny anything when he saw himself quoted directly 
on statements he had never made. 

Roosevelt once asked Garner to break his no-speech rule and address 
the annual luncheon of the Associated Press in New York. Roose- 
velt said: 

"Well, Jack, you only made one speech in the campaign and you 
ought to make one nonpolitical speech during your term." 

Garner replied: 

"You know all my life I have been an independent cuss. I have my 
own thoughts and views. So far as I know there is no conflict be- 


tween us now. If, however, I should deliver an address, the first 
thing the country would ask is: Does he speak for the President? 
Any speech or statement I made would be searched to find a difference 
between you and me." 

Roosevelt agreed he was right. 

Three universities offered him degrees of doctor of law in the 
spring of 1933. Garner refused them and many others. He said to me: 

"They have offered me the honor of these degrees because they 
think I have some ability in legislative affairs. I do not wish to accept 
them unless in so doing I can give a message or a philosophy, if 
you wish to state it that way of my belief in the principles of govern- 
ment. I do not think I ought to do that now." 

Later he did accept two degrees. One was from Baylor University in 
Texas, and one from John Marshall Law School in New Jersey. He did 
not speak on either occasion. 

Garner continued to attend the Cabinet meetings, when in Wash- 
ington, all during the first Roosevelt term. Some he found interesting 
and some so time killing and unproductive that he walked out at the 

At some of them Roosevelt was such a chatterbox that scarcely any- 
one else got in a word. This amused Garner. Once he said: 

"I'd like to have a computation on how much Roosevelt talks 
and how much he listens. I'd imagine he utters five hundred words 
to every one he listens to." 

He thought the Cabinet members themselves as a rule did not get 
to bring up enough of the important matters which they faced. 

"With the Cabinet members generally I have pleasant relations," 
he told me. 

Hull he had known and worked with and respected highly for 
a quarter of a century. Swanson, with whom he had had very pleasant 
relations in Congress, was ill most of the time after he went into the 
Cabinet. Roper, also an old acquaintance, he regarded as able in 
some ways but tiresomely loquacious. Dern, and later Woodring, he 
admired for courageously expressing their viewpoint whatever it might 

For Farley his esteem was increasing all the time. 

"Farley is not only a master mechanic in politics, but he is an able 


public servant," he said. "I believe he is doing the best job in the 
Postoffice Department of anyone I have known." 

Miss Perkins, he thought, expressed a view on welfare matters that 
was very useful but not adequate for the post she filled, especially at 
a time of great growth in the ranks of organized labor and increasing 
labor problems. 

"In the economy effort at the beginning of this Administration," he 
said, "she came nearer living up to the program than any other 
Cabinet member." 

He seemed to think that it was by unspoken mutual consent that 
he and Ickes were not exactly buddies. 

"I don't recall ever having had a conversation with Ickes," he said. 
"We just speak or nod. We don't seem to hit it off." 

Wallace, he thought, had crazy ideas and Morgenthau no ideas at all. 

Morgenthau was a never ceasing source of wonder to him. He 
wondered by just what method of sorcery one he regarded of such 
meager abilities remained in the high post of Secretary of the Treasury. 

Garner was an expert on taxation and fiscal matters and had occupied 
the top Democratic post on the tax-making committee of the House. 
After long dealing with such able Secretaries of the Treasury as 
McAdoo, Glass, Houston, Mellon, and Mills, the helplessness of Mor- 
genthau appalled him. 

Besides his visual appraisal of Morgenthau at Cabinet meetings^ 
Senators would tell him how Morgenthau brought an army of assistants 
in his appearances before the Senate Finance Committee and had to get 
the answers to questions the Senators asked from them. 

Once Garner said: 

"Morgenthau is the most servile man toward Roosevelt I have ever 
seen. I mean servile, not loyal. When he is called on in the Cabinet 
meetings [the Secretary of State is called on first at Cabinet meetings 
and then the Secretary of the Treasury], he speaks his piece and leaves. 
It looks like he is afraid someone will ask him a question and he will 
give an answer that will displease Roosevelt." 

The Vice-President tried to joke and exchange pleasantries with 
Morgenthau but gave it up because he "had no sense of humor." He 
thought perhaps the phrase was "exactly twice too long." 


Once when it was rumored that Morgenthau would resign, Garner 

"He won't. Even if he seriously wanted to his Papa wouldn't let 

The Vice-President got along very well with the brain trust although 
he said he could not understand some of their imported words and 
gaudy phrases. Raymond Moley he seemed to like best of all 

"Moley speaks Ohio language and that isn't much different from 
Texas language," he said. 

"I like simple language. I never use anything but simple words my- 
self and there are usually enough of them to tell what you have to say. 
When a man is able to think of them in simple terms, some of these 
large problems come down to the same size." 

Another time, he said: 

"Some of these professors have real competence and I admire com- 
petence. Some of them want to experiment just for the sake of ex- 
perimenting. In sound progress there is a lot to looking back and taking 
advantage of experience. You can't disregard human experience." 

Garner retained his strong influence in the House of Representatives. 
Rainey had proved a weak Speaker and displayed jealousy toward 
the former Garner House lieutenants, John McDuffie of Alabama; 
Lindsay Warren of North Carolina; Fred Vinson of Kentucky; Sam 
Rayburn of Texas and others. Rainey died in August 1934, and Joseph 
W. Byrns of Tennessee, who succeeded him, failed to manage the 
House business well, although he had previously made a good record 
as Appropriations Committee chairman. Byrns, too, died in June 1936, 
and was succeeded by William B. Bankhead, who died in September 

Senate Majority Leader Robinson and Speaker Bankhead both con- 
ferred with Garner continuously. He had the finest relations with both, 
stepped on the toes of neither, and in no way encroached on their 
power or prerogatives. Garner felt that he had been useful to an extent 
and could be more useful in a second term when there would be more 
permanent legislation and fewer grants of power to the executive 
branch. His term as Vice-President generally had been pleasant. "The 
job is delightful/' he said. "I like it. But it is almost entirely unimpor- 


Another time he said: 

"The Vice-President is a figure of slight importance with a tide 
of great impressiveness." 

After the Senate celebrated his birthday, and Senator Clark said 
Garner had made the office of Vice-President the useful one the Con- 
stitution makers intended it to be, Garner told a little group in his 

"There can be great Judges, great Governors, great Senators, great 
Representatives and great Presidents. A Vice-President may move into 
the Presidency and be a great President. A great man may be Vice- 
President, but he can't be a great Vice-President, because the office in 
itself is unimportant. In my judgment, the four most potent offices 
in the nation are: The President, the Speaker of the House, the 
majority leader of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the United 

"In any of these four offices, of course, everything depends on the 
nature of the man holding it," he said. 

But because the Vice-President may at any time succeed to the 
Presidency where Garner said "the powers are vast beyond imagina- 
tion," he felt the Vice-President should be as carefully selected as the 

"No second-rater ever ought to be nominated for Vice-President," 
Garner said. 

From a Democratic party standpoint, two capitalized words disturbed 
him. The term "New Deal" began to be used with disquieting fre- 
quency. Garner had never thought of the term new dcd in capitalized 
form. He had merely thought of the Democratic party as the instrumen- 
tality for providing a new deal to a depression-ridden country. He used 
the term, when he used it at all, as Theodore Roosevelt's square deal 
and Woodrow Wilson's new freedom had been used. 

More and more 'New Deal annoyed him. It was exasperating when 
officeholders, some of them political castoffs from other parties, began 
to refer to the New Deal party. Men in high Administration posts 
for the first time began to say they were New Dealers, not Democrats. 
These New Dealers admitted to no Democratic party loyalty, regarded 
themselves merely as coalitionists with the Democrats. Some of them 
he thought were mercenary coalitionists. 

The left wing New Dealers were proposing strange innovations, 
not to bring recovery but to take the country down strange paths. The 
spend and spend, elect and elect theory had not been expounded, but 
it was on its way. 

Afterward, Mr. Garner believed this group really began to gain 
Roosevelt's ear after Louis Howe was no longer at the White House. 
This little gnome of a man, Garner thought, exerted more influence 
with Roosevelt than anyone had up to that time, although Harry Hop- 
kins later had a similar relationship. After a long illness, Howe died 
<on April 18, 1938. 

His last words to Garner from his death bed were: 
"Hold Franklin down!" 

Garner's relations all during the four years with Roosevelt were 
excellent. They saw each other often. Roosevelt made him a member 
of his cuff-links club, a little group which sometimes played poker with 

"I like to play poker with him," Garner said. 
One night in a West Virginia lodge, Roosevelt and Garner played 
most of the night. 

But Garner begged out of most of the social engagements Roosevelt 

Both Roosevelt and Garner were well-to-do. There have been wealthy 
Presidents and wealthy Vice-Presidents, but seldom if ever was there 
a President and Vice-President at the same time so comfortably 
situated financially as the two chief elected officers of the nation in the 
time of its greatest depression. 

Garner perhaps \vas the wealthier. He had gone to the little West 
Texas town when he was twenty-two years old and by trading and 
farseeing investment built up a fortune. Roosevelt's fortune had come 
to him by inheritance. 
Garner never did anything in bad taste. 
To one rule Garner religiously held: 

"I will not engage in anything for profit that is in the remotest way 
connected with my government service." 

To a radio sponsor who offered him a contract amounting to close to 
$100,000 a year, he replied: 

"I am not worth it as John Garner, and any value I have attained as 
Vice-President of the United States is not for sale." 


He never speculated in commodities, stocks or bonds. 

"My reason was this," he said. "I occupy federal office. Congressional 
or other governmental action might affect the value of such securities. 
When the average citizen reads of an officeholder making money 
through such dealings it disgusts him and tends to break down the 
people's confidence in democratic government. 

"There usually is nothing dishonest in such dealings, but it is a 
mistake in judgment and shocks the public opinion. Royalty observes 
deportment which officials in a Republic sometime neglect. It is called 
noblesse oblige ? 

During the depression, shortly after the Democrats came into power. 
Garner told me: 

"I've got $100,000 to invest. Steel stock is selling at 19. I know it is 
too low and I could make $200,000 or $300,000 on a $100,000 investment. 
But it will be because of government stimulus to business and I 
cannot do it." 

He invested the money in land. In 1948, he told me he had made 
the $200,000 or $300,000 in land. 

"Land is the best investment after all, I suppose," he said. "Anyway, 
right now rural land is the best insurance against inflation and atom 

The nation furnishes no residence for the Vice-President. Mr. and 
Mrs. Garner lived inexpensively in a three-room suite in the Wash- 
ington Hotel, less than two blocks from the White House. Usually, 
they ate in the coffee shop of the hotel. 

The Garners entertained once a year for the President and Mrs. 
Roosevelt. Roosevelt said the Garner dinners were the most enjoyable 
events he attended. Once he stayed until nearly two o'clock in the 
morning. Other than the Vice-President's dinner which the President 
gave for him and the Gridiron dinners, given by a group of newspaper- 
men. Garner accepted no bids to social events. The interminable 
invitations which came to him and Mrs. Garner they declined. 

To accept no invitations to dinners in a city with the largest per 
capita of free-loaders anywhere in the world in itself constituted 
Garner an anachronism. 

The Vice-President saw nothing unusual in his desire to live just 
as routine a life in Washington as in Uvalde. He was a good mixer 
in any gathering and enjoyed himself when he went out. His greatest 


pleasure was a small, spontaneous gathering. However, he liked to 
go to his hotel suite after a day at the Capitol, play rummy with Mrs. 
Garner for a while and have dinner alone with her. 

When Garner was a member of the House, he and Mrs. Garner 
attended the movies. But after he became Vice-President, autograph 
hunters and other annoyances caused him to discontinue this. 

When the depression was at its depth there were suggestions that 
Garner be given Secret Service protection. It was pointed out to him 
that Washington was full of people who might attack any high gov- 
ernment official. 

Garner sometimes facetiously called Secret Service men "constables." 
When the guard was suggested, he said: 

"I don't want those constables guarding me. There is not anybody 
crazy enough to shoot a Vice-President." 

Curiosity gazers he sought to avoid wherever possible. When he 
first became Vice-President, he walked from his office in the Senate 
office building. The twice-a-day walks through the Capitol grounds he 
discontinued. Sight-seers, knowing his punctual habits, waited to 
shake hands with him. He changed his habit and took to the subway 
train which transports Senators between the Capitol and the Senate 
office building. 

But one custom Garner never gave up in his thirty-six years in 
Washington. Whenever possible he went to the Washington Zoo. 

"I like to go to the zoo because the animals don't talk/' he said. 

Garner was held up to his colleagues by Dr. George W. Calver, 
special Capitol physician, as a man who knew how to take care of him- 
self in the midst of Congressional strains. Dr. Calver listed Garner 
as a man who goes to bed every night at nine-thirty. 

"Libel," said Garner, "it's nine o'clock." 

Somebody asked him when he played poker. He replied that he was 
a "retired poker player." 

"Haven't played for seventeen years," he said. "Oh, I may play 
penny-ante. But this: 'Bet-you-five-hundred 5 or 'bet-you-five-thousand' 
business, I quit that years ago." 

There was no doubt that the Democrats would renominate Roose- 
velt and Garner in 1936. The Vice-President felt there was little doubt 
about the election outcome and speculated on the Republican ticket. 
Once he said to me: 


"The Republicans used to do the politically smart thing most of the 
time. If they get back the knack I would imagine they will give Her- 
bert Hoover a Grover Cleveland try. [Cleveland had been renominated 
by the Democrats in 1892 after being defeated by Harrison In 1888.] 
He couldn't win, but he would carry more states than anyone else they 
can put up. From an organization standpoint in a year when they 
have little chance. Hoover would be their best nominee, because 
even though he would lose, he might carry a number of other Repub- 
lican candidates to victory." When Landon was nominated, he said: 
"The Republicans have set the stage for a party debacle." 

Just before the Democratic national convention at Philadelphia, 
Garner said : 

"Whatever have been his faults and his errors, Roosevelt has been 
a good President for the country. He's got too much power. Some 
power we have granted him is no longer needed. The other can. be 
worked into the framework of the law. He has been matured by 
four years in office. With good administration of the laws we have 
enacted, his second term should be an Indian summer." 

Roosevelt and Garner were renominated by acclamation at Phila- 
delphia in July. Garner attended the convention. With Roosevelt he 
accepted the nomination before a packed multitude in Franklin Field. 
It was the first time he had ever faced so tremendous a crowd. On the 
way to Franklin Field that night he told Mrs. Roosevelt o an 
experience : 

"I got up at six o'clock this morning and walked around the streets," 
he said. "That's about saddling-up time in Texas, but it's early here. 
The only people up were policemen, cab drivers and night workers. I 
talked to them and most of them are going to vote the Democratic 
ticket, and none of them have done that before. We will carry Penn- 

Mrs. Roosevelt thought he was too enthusiastic, so he made the 
only bet he made on the election that year with her. It was for one 
dollar and he won. The Democrats carried Pennsylvania, for the first 
time since the Civil War. 

Garner thought Roosevelt should not make a campaign. The reason, 
as he saw it, for the Roosevelt appearances in 1932 were no longer 
present. The country did not doubt the President's physical fitness 
for office. 

But he was eager for President Roosevelt to make a statement 
repudiating Communist support in the campaign. Garner felt the 
soft recognition of Russia was the one mistake of the first Roosevelt 
term that would be hardest, if not impossible, to rectify. 

Roosevelt made the repudiation in a speech. He opened his campaign 
with It, before the Democratic state convention at Syracuse, on Sep- 
tember 29. The President said: 

"I have not sought, I do not seek, I repudiate the support of any 
advocates of communism or any other alien 'isms' which would by 
fair means or foul change our American democracy. This is my 
position. It has always been my position. It will always be my posi- 

However, the Communist support, such as it was, went to the 
national candidates, apparently principally through the American 
Labor party in New York. In the nation only 80,096 votes were re- 
ceived by Earl Browder, the Communist candidate for President. 

Garner made one speech by radio from Uvalde. 

In November, the Roosevelt-Garner ticket carried forty-six of the 
forty-eight states. The Republican party was pulverized. Garner was 
so certain of the result that he did not even listen to radio returns of 
the election. 

On a cold, raw, rainy day Roosevelt and Garner were sworn in for 
their second terms on the portico in front of the Capitol. It was the 
first January 20 inauguration and the change from the time honored 
March 4 date was inauspicious. 

With the Senate Chamber ceremonies omitted, Garner took the 
oath the second time from Senator Joseph T. Robinson. He answered 
the oath with the words: 

"I do." 

That day Garner got an important piece of information. 

Roosevelt told him he never would run again for public office. 

Garner also gave Roosevelt some information. 

"Neither will I," he said. "I am going to take my good wife and 
do some traveling." 

From their trip to the Orient in 1935, Mr. and Mrs. Garner had 
come back with a desire for more travel. 

Now in four more years, Garner felt, they could indulge that taste. 



The Split Begins 

VICE-PRESIDENT Garner probably got greater satisfaction 
out of the 1936 victory than anyone. When he took over as 
minority leader of the House after the 1928 Hoover landslide, 
the Democratic representation in Congress was so small and the party's 
influence in the nation so weak that there had been widespread sug- 
gestions that the party abandon its historic name and reorganize as a 
new party. 

Now it was at a summit never before reached by any political party 
in modern times. In the Senate there were 77 Democrats, 15 Republicans 
and 4 representatives of minor parties. In the House of Representatives 
there were 330 Democrats, 90 Republicans and 13 representatives of 
splinter parties. Democratic governors sat in most of the State Houses 
of the nation and Democratic legislatures were in control. 

But in one way Garner feared the proportions of the sweep. 

"Things may be, too one sided for our own good/' he said. "It 
all depends upon the use we make of our victory. If we justify the 
confidence of the country the Democrats might remain in power for 
another quarter of a century. These next four years can be a period of 
calm correcting and perfecting legislation and the Democrats have 
never had one. 

"Cleveland never had a working majority in Congress. Wilson lost 
control of the House in his close race with Hughes and had to depend 
on a coalition in the war years, and we had a Republican House in his 
last two years. Roosevelt is started out on his second term with majori- 
ties of unprecedented proportions in both Houses." 

Garner's idea was that "amend, amend and amend" would be the 
Administration watchword. 

"We have passed a lot o experimental legislation and any experi- 
mental legislation has to be amended in the light of the experience 
with it," he said. "There was no ready answer to all problems and 
everything could not be foolproof. I think now we can have sound 
legislation and more coherent administration of it. We are not putting 
out a fire now, 

"Any party that comes in with a good working majority in Congress 
does its best work in the first term. If it can keep a fair working 
majority in its second term it can amend and correct. 

"You cannot do everything in an eight-year term, but you can 
do all the country can get used to. The solid, lasting things come with 
gradualness. If you work too fast and don't let things settle down a little 
the people get fatigued and you get reaction." 

The Vice-President emphasized the need to translate some of the 
emergency powers given to the President into carefully drawn legisla- 
tion and some of them he thought could be repealed. 

Garner told me he hoped the President would address himself to 
reducing expenses and balancing the budget. Roosevelt had campaigned 
on an economy platform in 1932. Garner thought the most effective 
speech of his ticket mate's campaign and the one that clinched the 
first Roosevelt election was the one he made from a stand built over 
second base at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. In this speech Roosevelt 

"The credit of the family depends chiefly on whether that family is 
living within its income. And that is equally true of a nation. . . . 
But if, like a spendthrift, it [the nation] ... is willing to make no 
sacrifice at all in spending; if it extends its power to the limit of 
people's ability to pay and continues to pile up deficits, then it is on the 
road to bankruptcy. . . . Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who 
labors because they are a burden on production and are paid through 
production. . . ," 

In that same speech Roosevelt proposed saving by abolishing many 
o the "innumerable boards and those commissions which, over a long 
period of years, have grown up as a fungus growth on the American 
government.*' He ridiculed the results of loans to "backward and 
crippled" countries; he believed repeal of prohibition would help 
toward balancing the budget without additional taxation, but he 



Garner's influence in Congress was to rise to a high, level. He 
was credited with being greatest legislative influence in modern 
Congressional history with the exception of the two Speakers 
of the House, Reed and Cannon. (F. O. Seibel, Richmond Times 

promised to prevent return of the saloon. And he said that no person 
would be appointed to his Cabinet unless he promised "Absolute loyalty 
to the Democratic platform, and especially to its economy plank. . . ." 
Reduction in federal spending, he asserted, "is the most direct and 
effective contribution that government can make to business. . . ." 

In 1933, Roosevelt made his first, and also his last, economy drive 
and Congress passed the short-lived Economy Act of 1933: 

"I do not take our 1932 economy pledge as a deceptive promise to 
win an election," Garner told me at the outset of Roosevelt's second 
term. "Perhaps we could not carry out all our campaign promises. The 
country's economy was unbalanced from 1933 until now, and our 
program had to be flexible. But there is no reason why we can't balance 
the budget now. You can repeal unwise or unworkable laws but you 
can't repeal the public debt." 

Roosevelt assured Garner that a real effort toward this end would 
be made when they talked over the President's budget message. On 
January 8, 1937, Roosevelt sent his message to Congress promising 
"a layman's balancing of the budget" in the fiscal year 1938 and a com- 
plete balance and resumption of payment on the public debt in 1939. 
Garner was -disappointed, however, at the number of ifs with which 
the President qualified the message. 

A pleasant little personal episode showed the continued good rela- 
tions between the President and Vice-President. The President's trip 
to Buenos Aires jammed up the ten formal White House social 
gatherings. If held, all would have to come within the first forty days 
of the year. These and the Vice-President's dinner for the President 
at the Hotel Washington clogged the White House social calendar. 

"I'll tell you what I'll do, Cap'n, if it is all right with you: 111 skip 
that dinner I have been giving for you," Garner proposed. 

"Fine," Roosevelt responded. "I like the idea so much if it is all right 
with you. 111 cancel my dinner for you." 

"That's two of eleven eliminated," said Garner. 

"I know you don't like to stay up late, anyway," Roosevelt said. 
"So instead of these dinners 111 have you over to luncheon oftener." 

But these happy relations were fated to undergo a severe strain and 
all dreams of a tranquil second term abruptly ended. These were the 
things that split the Democratic party: (i) Administration silence on the 

sit-down strikes, (2) the spending program and the unbalanced budget, 
(3) the Supreme Court enlargement bill, (4) Administration inter- 
ference in the Barklcy-Harrison Senate leadership contest. (The 
attempted purge o Democratic legislators, which widened the split, 
was to come later.) 

First portents of trouble came not from political Washington, but 
from industrial Michigan. 

The year 1936 was ushered out by sit-down strikes, a newly imported 
strike weapon. Members of John L. Lewis' C.LO. Automobile Workers 
Union occupied two Fisher Body plants of the General Motors Cor- 
poration from December 30 to January 16 when they evacuated. Issu- 
ance of writs of body attachment for their forcible ejection had beea 
refused on January 2. The shut-down, sit-down strike spread to Chevro- 
let, Cadillac-LaSalle, Pontiac and other plants. Six thousand sit-downers 
took and held possession of eight Chrysler plants for nearly three 

Garner believed the C.I.O. came into being heavily infiltrated with 
Communists. He thought there had been a rush of Communists to 
several important branches of the C.LO. notably the Automobile 
Workers Union. 

While the country hotly debated the President's duty in the sit-down 
crisis, the President and the Vice-President just as hotly debated it in 

At a session at the White House, the President, Vice-President and the 
Secretary of Labor, Miss Perkins, discussed it at length. Garner told me 
of part of the discussion. 

"I said to Miss Perkins," he related, " 'do you think the sit-down 
strike is right?* 

" 'Yes, 5 she replied. 

" 'Do you think it is legal?' 

" 'Yes,' she answered, 

"I asked the President: 

"'Do you think it is right?' 

" 'No/ he replied. 

"'Do you think it is legal?' 

<( No,' he replied." 

Garner left a White House meeting under the impression that 

Roosevelt would issue a statement excoriating the sit-down strike. But 
the statement did not materialize. He heard that Wallace and Hop- 
kins talked the President out of it, but did not confirm this. 

There the matter stood one afternoon about five o'clock when 
Garner and Robinson appeared at the White House to discuss the 
legislative program which would be taken up immediately after 
Roosevelt's second inauguration. It was almost eight o'clock when the 
Vice-President and majority leader came out. 

The first acrimonious exchange between Roosevelt and Garner 
had taken up most of the three hours. 

"It was the hottest argument we ever had," Garner said. "I told 
him that I regarded the sit-down strikes as seizure of other people's 
property in brazen defiance of the law; that the strikers were in 
illegal possession of the plants; that it was not a strike for better 
wages and working conditions, but a step in the fight of John L. 
Lewis for personal and political power; that Lewis was arrogantly 
expecting the backing of the Democratic party in his sitdown under- 
taking as a pay-off for his support and campaign contributions. 

"I asked the President what he intended to do if the state of 
Michigan could not or would not enforce the law. What if the state 
did not or could not maintain a Republican form of government as 
guaranteed by the Constitution? I told him the country was entitled 
to know what his attitude was toward this new and formidable 
weapon. We went at it hot and heavy. 

"When the President said, 1 couldn't get those strikers out without 
bloodshed/ I replied: 'Then John L. Lewis is a bigger man than you 
are if you can't find some way to cope with this.' 

"Finally Joe Robinson broke in. 'You fellows are not getting 
anywhere/ he said, 'and I think you ought to stop the argument.' 

"I said: *A11 right I have made my argument. I will never mention 
Lewis' name to you again.'" 

Garner told me: 

"After this, Roosevelt told me many times, 'Jack, you were right 
about Lewis! 5 " 

When he was leaving Washington at the end of his thirty-eight years 
of public life. Garner said: 

"I think that is the only angry discussion we ever had. I disagreed 

with him many times and expressed my viewpoint as forcefully as I 
could, but there were no brawls." 

But Garner and Robinson left the torrid White House session with 
this agreement : 

The session of Congress would pass the appropriation bills, do a 
little tinkering on legislation already on the statute books and ad- 
journ. The whole thing could be done in six months, which meant 
a June adjournment. 

Garner made plans for a June vacation in Texas. The day before 
inauguration, Garner told one of his callers, Gene Howe, newspaper 
publisher, that he would be in Amarillo about the middle of June. 
The Vice-President's son, Tully, had moved to Amarillo to engage 
in the banking business, and both the Vice-President and Mrs. Garner 
were anxious to visit their son and his family in their new home. But 
the incredible civil war within the Democratic party was soon under- 
way and growing in intensity. 

Administration inaction in the sit-down strikes, which had spread 
from Michigan to other states, was met in the Senate by a resolution 
by Senator James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, condemning the new 
labor weapon. The Byrnes resolution recited: 

"That it is the sense of Congress that the so-called sit-down strike 
is illegal and contrary to sound public policy. The Congress only 
assumes to speak as to strikes in industries within the jurisdiction o 
the federal government." 

Byrnes went to Majority Leader Robinson and asked his support 
for the bill. 

"I am for it, Jim, but I will have to oppose it," Robinson said. 

It was plain that the Administration was opposed to the resolution, 
It was debated and finally came to a vote, being defeated forty-eight 
to thirty-six. Among those who voted for the resolution was Senator 
Harry S. Truman of Missouri. It was common knowledge that Garner 
favored the Byrnes resolution. 

But before the Byrnes resolutioa came to a vote, two other storms 
broke: the new spending program and the court reorganization bill. 

On February 5, fifteen days after his second inauguration, Presi- 
dent Roosevelt handed Congress his court reorganization bill, less than 
three weeks after he had told Garner and Robinson there would be 

little other than appropriation bills for Congress to consider. Sud- 
denly he had expanded his program to include the most highly con- 
troversial piece of legislation sent to Congress since the turn of the 
century. No one on Capitol Hill had even a hint the court bill was 

"The first time I ever heard of the bill, or that Joe Robinson or 
any of the others heard of it was when the President and Homer 
Cummings [then Attorney General] read it to us in the President's 
office," Garner told me that night. "It was all drawn to the last detail 
and ready for Congress. I loaded my automobile with Senators and 
Representatives and took them back to the Capitol. We were all so 
stunned we hardly spoke." 

President Roosevelt received the press immediately after the Con- 
gressional leaders departed and explained the court bill in even more 
detail than he had given the Congressional leaders. I remember that 
I made notes on every piece of paper I had in my pocket, borrowed 
all I could and even used the back of a Tulsa World pay check for 
notes. Every reporter in the room was out of note paper before the 
press conference ended. 

The proposal was received coldly at the Capitol with few excep- 
tions. One, Senator Carter Glass, received it hotly, declaring in an 
unrestrained attack that the proposal was "frightful," "shocking," 
"brutal," "infamous," and "outrageous." Senator George W. Norris 
unexpectedly called the proposal unwise. It was not until three days 
later that Senator Henry F. Ashurst of Arizona, chairman of the 
Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill. Representative Hatton 
W. Sumners, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused 
to touch the bill, and its introduction in the House was from left- 
wing sources. In New York City on the afternoon of the day President 
Roosevelt revealed the plan, former President Herbert Hoover, not 
thereto noted for being fast on his political feet, characterized the 
proposal as "court packing" and the country quickly adopted the 
term applied to It by the only living ex-President. 

Garner said: 

"If the President had told any Congressional leader in advance 
about his court plan they would have tried to talk him out of it and 

with something like the Sumners retirement bill there is no doubt that 
Vandeventer and Sutherland, at least, would have left the court." 

While Democrats at the Capitol stewed over the court reorganiza- 
tion proposal, Garner continued to worry over the still unsettled sit- 
down-strike issue and about signs that President Roosevelt intended 
to continue heavy deficit spending. He said: 

"We have tried everything in the economic cookbook and are at a 
point where the country knows better what to do for itself than 
Washington knows what to do for it. I may be an economic illiterate, 
but I never heard of any other great nation trying to spend itself 
into prosperity by going into debt." 

Of the sit-down strikes, he said: 

"Let the sit-down strike become established as an American custom 
and recognized in law and it will change our entire theory of govern- 
ment and of property ownership." 

Garner never believed after the first few days of February that the 
court bill had any chance of passage. If it got through the Senate 
in any form, Garner thought, Sumners would sit on it in the Judiciary 
Committee with the hearty approval of the House. The Vice-Presi- 
dent's chief worry about the court bill was that it threatened party 
harmony and party harmony he regarded as a very important 
requirement of party behavior. 

He was less concerned about the possibility of political control of 
the court. After the bill had been amended to permit the addition 
of only one Justice a year instead of six all at once, Garner said: 

"Conceding that six additional Justices had been appointed at one 
time, it might have been tough for a while, but the court would have 
adjusted itself. That many men are certain to divide. No President 
can control that court. Those black robes and life-tenure appointments 
have their effect on men. I sometimes think it would be a better court 
if the Justices went on the bench in plain everyday clothes. But even 
in their robes some of them will always read election returns." 

A month after he sent the Supreme Court reorganization bill to the 
Senate, President Roosevelt at the party's Victory Dinner amplified his 
plans to retire at the end of his second term. The dinner was held 
on March 4, the old inauguration day, which had just been abandoned 
under the Lame Duck amendment. He said: 

"My great ambition on January 20, 1941, is to turn over this desk 
and this chair in the White House to my successor, whoever he may 
be, with the assurance that I am at the same time turning over to him 
as President a nation intact, a nation at peace, a nation prosperous, 
a nation clear in its knowledge of what powers it has to serve its 
own citizens, a nation that is in a position to use those powers to the 
fullest in order to move forward steadily to meet the modern needs 
of humanity, a nation which has thus proved that the democratic 
form and the democratic method can and will succeed." 

It was at about this time that reported Roosevelt-Garner differences 
began to be printed and talked about. 

When it had become evident early in 1937 that Roosevelt would 
ask $1,500,000,000 for relief for the next year, Garner protested to 
both the President and Relief Administrator Harry Hopkins. He told 
Hopkins that there was no opposition to adequate relief appropria- 
tions but there was a growing feeling in Congress and the country 
that relief was becoming a way of life to a part of the population and 
that some able-bodied reliefers were becoming perennials. He didn't 
like the implications of W.P.A. officials referring to reliefers as 

The court reorganization bill was destined to have a six-month 
party-splitting run in the Senate, In its earlier stages President Roose- 
velt took two rather extended trips, one to Georgia and a fishing trip 
to Texas and the Gulf. He also took several shorter ones to Hyde 
Park. On his return from Warm Springs, late in March, he canvassed 
the situation with Garner, Barkley, Bankhead and Rayburn and ex- 
pressed a fixed purpose to see the proposal through to enactment. 

On April 12, the constitutionality of the Wagner Act was upheld 
by the Supreme Court, by a vote of five to four. Hughes and Roberts 
were with the majority in this opinion. McReynolds, Butler, Suther- 
land and Vandeventer dissented. Roosevelt's determination to fight for 
the court bill deepened when the immovable four showed up in dissent. 

On June n, after the acrimonious court fight had been underway 
for four months and with no end of it in sight, Mr. and Mrs. Garner 
left for Texas on the trip the Vice-President had announced in Janu- 
ary, when he had thought the session would end by June 15. It was 
the first time he had ever taken a vacation while Congress was in 


Garner thought he would enjoy the rest. 

"My ears are buzzing and ringing," he said as he left. Both 
factions in the court fight were using his ears to the full extent he 
would permit. 

After Garner had gone from Amarillo to his home in Uvalde, 
he told me, he was amazed to see newspaper stories that the President 
objected to his leaving Washington, and that a rift between them 
was imminent as a result. He was sure that Roosevelt did not feel 
this way for Roosevelt himself had just taken two extended trips 
away from Washington. Later he was to hear from reliable advisers 
that Roosevelt was very angry at him at the time, but, Garner told 
me, the President never expressed his objections to him. 

The debate on the court bill in the Senate opened on July 6, with 
lacerating verbal exchanges between Senator Robinson, leading the 
Administration fight, and opponents of the bill. Robinson knew that, 
barring a miracle, he was fighting a lost cause. 

But Robinson, who never fought with padded gloves, opened the 
debate with all of his vigor. He pounded his front-row desk with his 
freckled fist in an exchange with Senator Wheeler, leader of the 
anticourt-bill bloc, and said: 

"As one who is charged with some responsibility in this service, I 
hope the questions at issue will be fairly and fully discussed, as I 
know they will be; and, when that has been done, that those opposed 
to the legislation will yield without putting the Senate to the incon- 
venience and embarrassment of staying here long days and long nights 
in a test of physical endurance. 

"Much as it might surprise the members of the Senate," he added, 
"I would probably come out of that kind of a test better than those 
who are in opposition, at least some of them. I think I could endure 
it longer than the Senator from Montana.'* 

But off the floor that day Senator Robinson told me: 

"I've got a hell of a job before me." 

After a few days more of the agonizing oratorical struggle Robinson 
was dead of a heart attack, leaving the court fight without a leader, 
and the majority leadership vacant. 

More than a month before Robinson's death, Justice Vandeventer 
had retired, making a vacancy to which the Arkansas Senator was to 
be appointed regardless of the outcome of the court fight. Robinson 


had arranged a loan to buy a home across the river In Virginia. 
The man who had been governor. Representative and Senator from 
his state, three times keynoter at his party's national conventions, his 
party's 1928 candidate for Vice-President and for fifteen years his 
party's leader in the Senate, owned no home in Washington, and 
lived in a modest apartment. 

President Roosevelt attended the state funeral for Senator Robinson 
in the Senate Chamber, but did not go with the funeral party by 
train as he had done in the cases of Speakers Henry T. Rainey and 
Joseph W. Byrns. Instead, he designated Garner to represent him 
and the Vice-President left Uvalde for Little Rock. 

The Vice-President returned to Washington on the funeral train. 
Two things were under discussion on the ride back to Washington, 
the court fight and the Barkley-Harrison fight for Robinson's old post 
as leader of the Senate. Newspapermen gave the train party the in- 
formation that Governor Herbert H. Lehman of New York, had 
written a letter to Senator Wagner, coming out against the court plan. 

Garner in a drawing room of the train, took off his coat, loosened 
his belt and called a porter: 

"Bring me some branch water," he said. 

Before he reached Washington, he had talked to every Senator on the 
train, and had an accurate line on how the vote stood on the court plan. 
He had been noncommittal on his own attitude. 

Both Harrison and Senator James F. Byrnes, in charge of his cam- 
paign, were certain Harrison would win the leadership fight. By most 
calculations Harrison had thirty-eight sure votes, a majority of one even 
if Barkley got all the other thirty-seven Democrats in the Senate. 

Garner, photographed sitting between Harrison and Barkley, de- 
clared his neutrality. Then he told newspapermen, and allowed himself 
to be quoted to the extent of twenty-four words : 

"I shall not by the nod of the head, the wink of the eye or the use 
of the vocal chord indicate any preference/* 

Both the court and the leadership fights were to be settled within 
forty-eight hours. 

When Garner met Roosevelt the morning of July 20, after the train 
arrived in Washington, Roosevelt asked him: 

"How did you find the court situation, Jack?" 


Garner replied: 

"Do you want it with the bark on or off, Cap'n?" 

"The rough way," Roosevelt replied. 

"All right," Garner said. "You are beat. You haven't got the votes." 

The President agreed to shelve the Supreme Court enlargement plan 
and commissioned Garner to make the best settlement possible in the 
interest of party harmony. 

But Garner's efforts were to be complicated by the Barkley-Harrison 
leadership contest. The White House Senate leader in the Franklin D. 
Roosevelt administration, occupied a different role than under previous 
Presidents. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, for example, 
who occupied that place in the Theodore Roosevelt administration, 
regarded himself as the Republican Senate manager, just as Senators 
Gorman of Maryland, and Culberson of Texas, his Democratic oppo- 
sites, regarded themselves as minority legislative managers. Franklin 
Roosevelt regarded the Senate leader as the President's lieutenant. 

The court fight awaited settlement of the leadership contest. In the 
Democratic caucus, Barkley defeated Harrison thirty-eight to thirty- 

Roosevelt^ Garner and Farley all had agreed to keep hands off, treat- 
ing it as a matter strictly to be settled by the Democratic members 
themselves without outside intrusion. But at the last moment President 
Roosevelt jumped into the contest on Barkley 's side, bringing pressure 
on Senator Dietrich of Illinois, who had pledged himself to vote for 
Harrison, and on Senator Bilbo of Mississippi. 

Garner was told that the President had telephoned National Chair- 
man Farley, asking him to get in touch with Mayor Kelly and have 
Kelly put the heat on Dietrich. When Farley reminded him of their 
agreement and refused, Roosevelt had Harry Hopkins do it. At Kelly's 
insistence, Dietrich, who was a candidate for renomination and wanted 
the support of the Chicago machine, shifted to Barkley. (Dietrich did 
not, however, return to the Senate for another term.) 

Bilbo had said that if Harrison would ask him to vote for him he 
would do so. Harrison sent word back that he would not ask Bilbo a 
favor for any office in the world. Bilbo voted for Barkley. 

Garner was flabbergasted when he heard what had taken place. He 
exclaimed to me: 


"I could have decided that contest. Morris Sheppard [Senator from 
Texas] came in here this morning and said: 'John, both Barkley and 
Harrison are my friends. Tell me which one to vote for. I will vote 
any way you say.' I told him: 'Morris, I ought not even talk to you 
about this. It is a matter for Senators to decide. Roosevelt and Farley 
and I have agreed to keep hands off.' " 

Sheppard left the Vice-President's room, went to the caucus and voted 
for Barkley. 

Of Roosevelt's interference Garner said: 

"It is an encroachment on the prerogatives of members of the legis- 
lative branch no President of the United States ought to engage in." 

Garner spent the rest of that day and the next in an attempt to arrange 
as tactful a surrender as possible in a Senate where the Democrats had 
been split almost exactly down the center in the Harrison-Barkley con- 
test and was the same way on the court, with nearly all if not all 
Republican votes against the court enlargement. 

Garner was compelled to deal with Senators who had Roosevelt 
beaten and knew it. In a last effort to save the Administration's face, he 
appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said: 

"My loyalties are in this order: First, to my country; second, to my 
party; third, to my President." He offered a plan which he said would 
serve all three. The court enlargement opponents, secure in the knowl- 
edge that they had the votes to kill the bill, refused his offer. 

The Senate voted seventy to twenty to send the bill back to the hostile 
Judiciary Committee, which meant its death. The vote carried instruc- 
tions for the committee to report in ten days another bill dealing with 
procedural reforms in the district and circuit courts, but the Supreme 
Court section was out. 

Garner jammed the watered-down bill through the Senate in a 
fifty-nine-minute session on August 7. The House passed the bill on 
August ii, and President Roosevelt signed it on August 25. 

There were reports, apparently well authenticated, that the President 
did not believe the Vice-President made the best settlement possible. If 
that was his belief, he never told Garner. 

At the close of his term, the Vice-President told me: 

"He never indicated to me in any way that he was dissatisfied with 
the way I handled the matter." 


At another time he said: 

"In my opinion the fate of the bill was settled by Senators on the 
train coming back from Little Rock. Roosevelt made the most o his 
trouble in Congress by changing his course after he had reached an 
agreement. That was what happened in the court enlargement matter. 
He sent it to Congress without notice after saying he had no legisla- 
tive program other than outlined. It was not a matter of party policy, 
for it was not in the party platform nor was it taken after consultation 
with Congressional leaders who would have to put it through. Party 
policy is not made by one man without consultation with elected 
officials from another branch of government." 

Discussing this matter further at the end of his term, Garner said 
Roosevelt often changed his course without notice, to the consternation 
of leaders who thought they were in agreement with him on a clearly 
charted program. 

"Even when the going was toughest I was determined not to have 
a rupture with him if I could prevent it. When I was opposed to a 
policy or a piece of legislation, I told him. Sometimes you could 
persuade him. He was a charming fellow. . . . But he was a hard 
man to have an understanding with. He would deviate from the 

"I have seen many stories about things on which we disagreed. But 
the thing most frequently a bone of contention between us I have never 
seen mentioned. He was constantly trying to influence me in the 
appointment of Senate committees. He would suggest personnel for 
conference and special committees. Of course, I had nothing to do with 
the appointment of the regular standing committees of the Senate. But 
he would say to me about the special and conference committees: 'Jack, 
you ought not to appoint our enemies on these committees.' 

"The issue of committee assignments did not become really embar- 
rassing to me until the second term when the New Dealers began 
noticeably to divide away from the Democrats on ideology. On the 
investigating committees, especially, it was embarrassing to me. The 
right of investigation is a sacred right and one of the highest duties 
of the legislative branch. I tried to be very careful in the appointment 
of these committees. I didn't want to appoint publicity seekers. If 
these committees were conducted like courts they would not fulfill their 


functions, but such committees must not overstep the bounds of 
decency. The purpose of an Investigation Is to get useful Information, 
not to give the third degree to witnesses. If the committee member 
was a man of moral and intellectual integrity, intent on doing his 
duty as he saw It, I never gave much attention to his party politics 
and none to his shading within a party. I made up my mind I was 
going to put on the committee men I thought had stability and 
equipment for the task. 

"A committee Is not going to run wild if the proper care is taken 
In Its selection and it is the business of the man who appoints com- 
mittees to know whom he is appointing. 

"I told Roosevelt I would follow the Senate wishes as much as 
possible on this. I had to treat the Senate with dignity. If I had not 
It would have been up to the Senate to take the power of committee 
appointments away from me. It should have done so. The Senate 
never overruled any of my rulings. During the Wilson administration 
it overrode Tom Marshall five times in one day." 

To save a party smashup, the obvious strategy called for an im- 
mediate adjournment of Congress, a cooling-off period and the con- 
solidation of the Democratic party Into the semblance, at least, of an 
orderly majority once more. But President Roosevelt insisted oa action 
on still another proposal the wages and hours bill. 

Garner thought Roosevelt's insistence on the controversial wages 
and hours bill on the heels of the party strife over the court bill was 
particularly inopportune. There had not been adequate study of the 
proposal, and its effect on thousands of businesses was unexplored, he 

The strategy was agreed upon to pass the bill through the Senate and 
send it to the House where the opposition to such legislation was 
much stronger than In the Senate. This was done after the final enact- 
ment of the diluted court bill. Congress adjourned on August 21, to 
meet again November 15. 

Of his own position, Garner said: 

"In my first campaign for Congress in 1902, I advocated an eight- 
hour day for industrial workers and for all other city workers where 
It is possible. That was before the day of nominating primaries and I 
wrote It into the platform of the convention which first nominated 


me for Congress. I have never changed my position. I have always 
believed in eight hours' work, eight hours' recreation and, if anyone 
wants it, eight hours' sleep. 

"I have always believed in collective bargaining and the right of 
every working man and woman to the best possible wages. The wages 
part of the proposal does not bother me so much as the hours. I am 
not convinced that as a general proposition the men and women of 
the country can do the nation's work in a forty-hour week. There is 
a vast difference between forty-eight and forty hours. 

"This is a mass-production country. We lead the world because we 
manufacture things in the mass and sell them cheaply. Most of the work 
of the country is done by machines, but even with all our machine- 
power I am not sure the wage earners can do the nation's work in a 
forty-hour week. 

"We have always stressed the importance of making things mul- 
tiply. From the time this nation was hewed out of the wilderness the 
emphasis has been on production. If just one generation has non- 
productivity preached to it or given to it by precept, the economy of 
the country will be damaged beyond repair." 

The wages and hours bill had a stormy voyage through the House 
but legislative action was completed in June 1938. 

Vice-President Garner came back for the short autumn session in 
November 1937, in excellent humor. He found that the tempers of 
Senators and Representatives were much better than when Congress 
adjourned. But he found plenty of evidence, also, that the legislators 
felt that if Roosevelt wanted to play rough with them they could play 
rough right back. 

Garner was determined to exert all the influence he had to keep his 
President and his party going in the same direction. 

"I like to feel that if I have contributed any one good thing during 
my terms of public service, it has been in bringing men and women 
together in combined effort to work harmoniously to a constructive 
end," he said. "I long ago came to realize that men who think right 
are not often far apart in their views." 

Roosevelt and Garner talked over the President's relations with 
Congress at a long luncheon at the President's desk. Garner came 
away from the White House believing he had made some progress 


with his suggestions on how to repair and improve these relations. He 
told the President in all candor that there was an increasing feeling 
in Congress that the Executive was by-passing it a great deal of the 
time and that when he did ask for legislation he sent up prepared bills. 

"Most of the members of Congress are men of good will," he told 
the President. "By patience and considerate treatment you can get 

Garner told the President that too many people in the executive 
branch were holding press conferences and propounding policies. He 
was depicting a situation of which every newspaperman in Washing- 
ton was aware. From 1933 up to this time in the fall of 1937, it was 
difficult to get a news story at the Capitol Previously, the White 
House had been a newspaper watch job. Roosevelt reversed all this. 
Now, instead of Senators and Representatives being sources of news, 
the legislators were more likely to get the news from newspapermen, 
relayed from the White House. 

"When I occupied office where I was compelled to deal with public 
questions, I did not mind talking/ 5 Garner told the President. "The 
newspapermen always treated me well, but I did not jeopardize the 
legislative program by giving out premature information. I think you 
and some Cabinet members are giving out premature information." 

Roosevelt said he agreed that Cabinet members were talking too 
much and he would curtail some of these press conferences, but not 
his own. 

"My press conferences are useful and good politics," he said. "You 
don't realize what they have accomplished for the party. I have 
headed off big unfavorable stories by making favorable stories that 
top them. I've beat the opposition to the punch many times. I can 
always beat them on headlines." 

Roosevelt laughed heartily at Garner's rejoinder: 

"Well, I think at least you ought to inform Congress and not your 
press conferences on the state of the Union and transmit directly to 
it your desires for legislation." 

Roosevelt did promise one definite innovation. He set aside one 
day a week, Monday, on which he would see Congressional leaders 
to discuss the legislative situation. The meetings began in January 

1938. They were attended by the Vice-President, Speaker of the House 
and Senate and House majority leaders. 

The legislative conferences, which continued until Roosevelt's death, 
did not work out as well as Garner had hoped. He said: 

"The legislative conferences were satisfactory to a degree only. He 
talked the legislative leaders into a lot of things and we seldom talked 
him out of anything permanently. He would come back in another 
direction to accomplish his desires." 


The Purge That Failed 

HINTS that President Roosevelt intended to attempt a purge 
of Senators and Representatives who had opposed parts of 
his program began to be heard around the Christmas holidays 
in 1937. By January it was the subject of conversation at every bar and 
private cocktail party in Washington. 

There had been reports immediately following the 1936 election that 
the left-wingers had decided that the party was not big enough for 
both them and the conservatives, and had blueprinted plans to- dis- 
mantle the old-line Democratic party and set up a "liberal" party. 

Among the leaders slated to walk the plank in the move away from 
"comfortable old Democratic orthodoxy" were Garner, Glass and Robin- 
son. Garner regarded the talk as some more pullulations of the left- 
wingers and paid no attention to it. 

There also appeared about this time a humorous newspaper article 
saying Garner was to be set aside for the crime of laissez jaire and that 
there was undisputable evidence that he was guilty of the crime of 
believing two and two made four. Laissez jaire at this time was taking 
a terrific pummeling. Everybody made an indignant speech against 
it. The test of liberalism in extreme left-wing circles was hatred of 
Laissez Faire and Serlor Franco of Spain. 

Garner was, in fact, no believer in laissez jaire^ unless this philosophy 
which he had stated in a public address could be so characterized: 

"It is not the business of government to make individuals rich; 
though, too often, has government been bent to that purpose. Nor is it 
the function of an administration to direct the personal affairs of man- 
kind, except insofar as it is necessary to place a bar against such things 
as injury, loss or discomfort to others. Putting the government into 


business is a violation of the nation's industrial and commercial fabric. 
Government is a convenience of civilization by which a set of rules is 
enforced on a community in the interest of order and justice." 

Garner thought of himself as a progressive although he had mis- 
givings about much of the legislation labeled progressive. 

"I consider myself a Democrat without any explanatory prefix," he 
once told me. "I think I am a progressive and I hope a sound progres- 
sive. There is a vast difference between progress and makeshift. Pro- 
gress is the product of time. Improvising is still improvising no matter 
how dramatic you make it. When legislation is proposed I want the 
proposer to tell me how he thinks it will work in practice, A sure- 
footed progressive, as I regard it, is one who takes an action for a 
purpose, knowing what results the action is reasonably certain to 

It soon became evident that the reports of the contemplated purge 
were not mere gossip. There was a ring of authenticity about them. 
The President, it was said, preferred a liberal Republican to a con- 
servative Democrat if need be, but that he was really intent on replac- 
ing conservative Democrats with liberal Democrats. 

Partial confirmation was not long in coming. At the Jackson Day 
Dinner on January 8, 1938, which both Roosevelt and Garner attended, 
Roosevelt said that he had bolted his party on its Presidential candi- 
date on his first vote, casting it for Theodore Roosevelt instead of Alton 
B. Parker. That wasn't the Garner kind of Democrat, 

"Republicans sometimes are jolly companions," Garner said. "I have 
wonderful friendships with Republicans any time except on a roll call, 
any day except election day. On roll calls and in polling places I am a 

Pleasant personal relations still existed between the President and 
Vice-President. On February n, Vice-President and Mrs. Garner gave 
their annual dinner omitted the year before for the President and 
Mrs. Roosevelt in the Rose Room at the Washington Hotel. 

This year all members of the Cabinet and their wives, except Secre- 
tary of Navy Swanson, who was ill, were present. The other guests 
included R.F.C. Chairman Jesse H. Jones and Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Wood- 
row Wilson, Senate and House Democratic and Republican leaders and 
a few personal friends such as Mr. and Mrs. Howard Chandler 

Christy and Mr. and Mrs. Gene Buck. The President had such a good 
time that he and Mrs. Roosevelt did not return to the White House 
until long after midnight. 

On April 8 the President took a crushing blow to the chin in his 
effort to reorganize the executive branch of the government. So much 
opposition developed that the proposal of two new Cabinet members 
for the Department of Social Welfare and Department of Public 
Works and the plan to change the name of the Department of Interior 
to Department of Conservation was dropped. 

But even these and other concessions did not make the measure more 
palatable in Congress. The whittled-down version of the bill was fiercely 
attacked. Speaker Bankhead and Majority Leader Rayburn sensing 
the proportions of the revolt made the issue one of confidence or no 
confidence in the President. Opponents thundered back that it was a 
test of whether there would be further centralization of power in the 
President's hands and further surrender of power by Congress. Despite 
the fact that there were only 90 Republicans and 330 Democrats in the 
House, foes of reorganization won 204 to 196. His own party adminis- 
tered the Congressional defeat. One hundred and eight Democrats had 
bolted, over their pleading Speaker and majority leader, joining 88 
Republicans. No such mass desertion had occurred in either party since 
the September 13, 1922, crossover when 102 Republicans followed 
Garner in his motion to recommit and revamp the For dney-Mc Cumber 
tariff bill. 

The President and Mrs. Roosevelt gave a return dinner to the Vice- 
President and Mrs. Garner and afterward Roosevelt and Garner dis- 
cussed the purge. 

"I don't think you ought to try to punish these men, Cap'n," Garner 
said to Roosevelt, speaking of the Senators who opposed the court 
enlargement bill. "On many details of party principles men disagree. 
Some branch off in one direction and some in another. Men who oppose 
you on one thing are for you on another and there is always a legisla- 
tive program for which you have to find votes. 

"I have a devotional affection for the Democratic party. I have 
marched and fought for causes with some of these men. They are 
Senators of the United States. The places they hold represent their life 
achievements, their struggles, their ambitions, the service to party and 


WKoWill Hold 

The Congress elected after the "purge" is represented as being 
one in which Garner's influence had risen while Roosevelt's 
strength was at a low. (F. O. Seibel, Richmond Times Dispatch} 

country. You may have reason to be provoked at them, but you can't 
defeat the Southern Senators and if you defeat the Democrats in the 
North you will get Republicans instead." 

But Roosevelt was unconvinced. 

Garner regarded the purge as unwise on two other grounds, he 
said: the domestic and international situation. The nation was still 
deep in the depression. The foreign situation became more critical. 
Hitler moved into and absorbed Austria in March. 

Garner said that if there was ever a time in which unity was needed 
within the party and in the nation, it was now, and he believed Roose- 
velt, on the advice of what Garner regarded as shortsighted New 
Dealers, was leading the nation down the paths of division. 

Reports again were widespread now that the President and Vice- 
President were in disagreement. There was no doubt about their incom- 
patibility over the purge, but Garner minimized their differences all 
he could. 

At the azalea festival at Charleston, South Carolina, in April, he 
said, in response to questions about the split: "I sometimes disagree 
with my wife and my friends but that does not take away my love and 
affection for them." 

Another time when both he and the President had toothaches the 
same day, Garner said: 

"See how closely we work together." 

But there was no doubt now that the purge would be undertaken. In 
a talk I had with him in his hotel apartment, the Vice-President wan- 
dered just what standard of support or nonsupport would determine 
the Administration's efforts to defeat legislators. First shining mark 
of the purge, it was understood, was Senator Walter F. George of 

George had voted for the Emergency Banking Act, N.R.A., A.A.A., 
T.V.A., relief bills, abrogation of the gold clause, the gold act, the 
Administration silver bill, emergency air-mail bill, compulsory crop 
control, regulation of stock exchanges, the commodity exchange bill, 
Reciprocal Trade acts, the Wagner Labor Relations Act, Social Security 
and many other Administration-proposed laws. He had opposed the 
Administration on the St. Lawrence treaty, the Public Utility Holding 

Company bill, the Guffey-Snyder Coal bill, the Wages and Hours law 
and the Supreme Court enlargement bill. 

There was little legislation at the 1938 session of Congress other than 
completing action on the wages and hours and a redrafted farm bill. 
Senators and Representatives were anxious to get away for their cam- 
paigns. The President was anxious to devote his attention to purge 
efforts. Congress finally adjourned on June 16. It could have got away 
sooner but for the fact that the Republicans had only fifteen Senators, 
not enough for manning the conference committees on routine legisla- 
tion. To suggestions that he hurry, the Vice-President replied: 

"We are going to give the minority fair play, so far as I am con- 
cerned, no matter how long we have to stay here, I am as anxious to 
get away as anyone is. I don't know what, with their small member- 
ship, they can do about it after they see them, but they are going to 
have a chance to look at the completed bills. I spent more than half 
my time here in the minority and I have taken some pretty rough treat- 
ment from the Republicans. I am going to give them the consideration 
I demanded and sometimes did not get." 

In July, Roosevelt started his Southern and Western trip to aid his 
supporters and oppose those who had fallen into his disfavor. 

On a torrid June 24, Roosevelt had delivered a fireside chat by radio 
from the White House laying down conditions under which he said 
he had every right to take sides in a party primary. 

I talked to Garner about the purge before he left for Texas. He said 
that his hopes of seeing the Democratic party made the permanent 
dominant party had about evaporated. 

"It is not the business of the President of the United States to choose 
Senators and Representatives in Congress," the Vice-President told 
me. "He won't succeed. The people of the states will regard it as Presi- 
dential arrogance. These men stand well in their party. Their standing 
is an accumulation of many years o work for their party and their 
constituents recognition for the things they have done. The leader of 
the party ought not to treat them as outcasts. 

"They are elected men with responsibility to the people who elected 
them. An elected officer has his own constituency and his own orbit. He, 
too, was elected on a platform. He has a loyalty to the President, but it 
isn't the same sort of blind allegiance some of his own appointees have* 


Roosevelt seems to want men to do his bidding, whether appointed or 
elected. You can't exact intellectual servitude from a self-respecting 
Senator or Representative. 

"The people who have been urging him to use the power of his 
office to defeat these Senators and Representatives have never been 
elected to office and most of them could not be. They owe their places 
solely to Roosevelt and have no standing other than what their rela- 
tion to him gives them." 

Nor was the Vice-President impressed with arguments for a new 
political alignment. 

"It is not a question of making the Democratic party the progressive 
party," he said. "It has always been the more progressive one. It is a 
question of the Democratic party or a personal party a Roosevelt 
party. It's risky business. When you build around a personality instead 
of a party program and principles then your party is up Salt Creek 
when that personality is off the ticket. 

"I would like to see the Democratic p'arty remain so strong that it 
would stay in power at least half the time. I am thinking of the kind of 
party we will have when Roosevelt is gone, and spending stops. In my 
opinion the kind of party Roosevelt seems to want to build up would 
not survive the next election after he was off the ticket. 

"This talk about dividing the country into two political camps one 
progressive and the other conservative is all so much stuff. There 
will always be agitation of this realignment, but in my considered 
judgment, it will never come. If it did you'd find you'd have a radical 
and a reactionary party and neither of these could serve the nation. 
Each of the two parties is in a sense a coalition. Any party to serve the 
country must be a party of all sorts of views, and through a reconcili- 
ation and adjustment of these views you get harmony and a program 
for good legislation and good administration. The country is neither 
radical nor reactionary. A party has got to strike a balance. 

"There are around forty-five million voters in the country. You've 
got a bedrock of around fifteen million in each party who will never 
scratch the party ticket and they serve a great purpose of stability. You 
have another fifteen million who swing often or occasionally, or go 
fishing or stay at home on election day, and these fifteen million serve 
a great purpose, too. That is where you get your changes. No one can 


figure a better system than that a third Democratic, a third Repub- 
lican and a third independent. Most American people have the same 
general ideas and concepts. Both the Republican and the Democratic 
parties are more than eighty years old and are here to stay. No third 
party has strength for more than. one election and this when special 
conditions have given it a temporary following. The pendulum swings 
from party to party on personality of candidates or on issues, but at 
heart the country is always progressive and forward looking." 

The President opened his July tour by speaking for Barkley in 
Kentucky and Thomas in Oklahoma and both won. In Colorado and 
Nevada he gave the deep freeze to Senators Adams and McCarren 
but both won anyway. In California he spoke for McAdoo, but 
McAdoo was beaten by Sheridan Downey, a newcomer. 

The last stages of the purge efforts began with the march through 
Georgia in August and continued through South Carolina and Mary- 
land. But after much oratory and deep strategy the assaults of the 
President on his foes was ineffectual; the brain-trust purge program 
failed everywhere except in one New York Congressional district. 
Not only had it resulted in practically total failure, it was to lead to 
big Republican gains in the fall election. 

The Republican party got up out of its grave to gain eighty-one 
House seats, eight Senate seats and eleven governorships. Garner 
deeply regretted the defeat of some of his close friends, Brown of 
New Hampshire, Lonergan of Connecticut and Duffey of Wisconsin 
among them. 

The Vice-President returned to Washington in the middle of De- 
cember after the purge that failed. Roosevelt had requested that he 
come up early. He had just celebrated his seventieth birthday. He got 
off the train, his muscles hard, his hair rumpled and his face still 
glowing with summer tan. He distributed fat cigars to Senators who 
came to see him, talked party harmony. He hoped Roosevelt would 
assume leadership of the whole party. He had said: 

"Roosevelt isn't leading the whole party, only the left-wing faction." 

While he was away, the Texas Democratic state convention, made 
up of 1,400 delegates, had unanimously endorsed him for President. It 
was a nice honor, but Garner was not thinking in terms of White 
House residence. 


Garner, who once said he worked a ninety-hour week, spent about 
the busiest day he ever had in Washington that day. 

He saw numerous Senators, individually and in groups, National 
Chairman Farley and President Roosevelt. 

Senators talked to him about legislation to curb the President's 
powers and about reports of Presidential plans to appoint radical lame 
ducks to high executive offices. They fumed that relief funds had 
been used to aid Roosevelt's friends and scourge his foes. 

A group of Senators told him they wanted a chance to consider 
and to either repeal or modify some of the "emergency powers" which 
the President had been given over a six-year period. They were, for 
the most part, powers which no President had ever had. Most of them 
actually were legislative powers. 

The President had discretionary power, with very slight limitations, 
over relief, farm benefits and other funds. He could devalue the 
dollar, issue three billion in greenbacks, decree the free and unlimited 
coinage of silver, fix the value of silver at any ratio of gold he saw fit, 
could operate a stabilization fund of two billions and the method of 
his management was not subject to review, and he could prescribe the 
rules and regulations under which gold could be acquired, transported, 
melted or treated, exported or imported. He could suspend any stock 
exchange for ninety days. He could raise or lower by 50 per cent any 
tariff imposed by the United States. 

Garner readily admitted that Roosevelt had been given powers 
which perhaps he never should have had and which could be returned 
to Congress now. He was for Congress recapturing these powers or for 
the President voluntarily giving them back. These feelings, he said, 
he would convey to the President. 

He emphasized, however, that he felt that both the President and 
Congress would have to make concessions. He wanted his party to 
carry the political ball. He said he would use any influence he had to 
prevent an alliance between "conservative" Democrats and Republi- 
cans. Senator McNary, the minority leader, and Senator Vandenberg 
of Michigan were reported to be promoting such an alliance. 

"If I were in the place of McNary and Vandenberg, I would suggest 
an alliance, too," Garner said. "The only people who would benefit 
by it would be the Republican party. I have made some forays to the 

Republican side to acquire votes but I never liked to have them come 
wooing on my side of the aisle. The party isn't going to get anywhere 
with Senators taking cracks at Roosevelt and Roosevelt taking swings 
at Senators. It can only give comfort to the Republican party. We still 
have a large majority in Congress, but it is not a New Deal majority." 

Jim Farley came in for the longest conference he and Garner had ever 
held. Garner occupied a political position in addition to the Vice- 
Presidency. He was Democratic national committeeman from Texas 
and vice-chairman of the Democratic national committee. 

Farley was smarting under cavalier treatment he had received dur- 
ing the campaign. Both he and Garner had opposed the purge, both 
felt that Roosevelt's listening to the Hopkins-Corcoran group had 
brought the party close to disaster, both feared the party's chances of 
success in 1940 were being tossed away. 

Garner then went to the White House for a blunt discussion with 
the President. He unburdened himself in what was to be his last great 
effort to get his President and his party together. 

Roosevelt first talked about the election. One by one he computed 
the Democratic losses and for each repulse he ascribed local conditions. 
Garner disagreed with Roosevelt's assessment of the situation, but 
told him that conceding he was right the facts of the Congressional 
life would have to be faced. 

"Eighty-one Republicans will sit in the House and eight in the 
Senate in seats where Democrats sat and either supported or ac- 
quiesced in legislation you proposed," he said. "Most Senators and 
Representatives are not interpreting the results the way you are and 
legislators sometimes perform in accordance with their interpretation 
of election returns." 

Garner said that the Democrats who had been successful were 
overwhelmingly those classed as "conservative" and that with nearly 
a hundred Democrats removed from the Congressional ranks, condi- 
tions were ripe for a coalition. He urged the President to recognize 
that he had lost legislators in the election and would lose more on roll 

Roosevelt thought conditions were still so critical that he needed 
his monetary and other powers, but was willing to see some restric- 
tions written into methods of expending relief money. 


Garner told the President also that some concessions would have to 
be made on appointments requiring Senate confirmation. The Vice- 
President said again that more leeway in writing legislation should be 
given Congress and less prepared legislation sent up. 

"The boys have started to read the fine print in them," he said jocu- 
larly, referring to the bills sent up from the executive offices. 

Later Garner was to learn that his errand at the White House that 
day was fruitless. After an election which Garner, Congress and ap- 
parently the country construed as a victory for the right, Roosevelt 
turned further to the left. Gamer soon was convinced that the Presi- 
dent wanted no peace with the party moderates and conservatives 
and had no intention of considering their viewpoint in legislative 
matters. That day, December 18, 1938, was the last long private dis- 
cussion the President and Vice-President had in the White House 
office. Thereafter when Garner saw Roosevelt it was in the presence 
of the Speaker of the House and the majority leaders of Senate and 
House or at Cabinet meetings. 

The Board of Education had been dismantled by Garner months 
before. Except for the wages and hours bill, no New Deal legislation 
had got through in the second term. But the graveyard of New Deal 
proposals was not in the Senate. It was in the House of Representatives. 

Chronologically the relations of the two most powerful Democrats 
in the nation, the President and the Vice-President, probably had 
these divisions: 

(1) The first four years when Garner, as legislative tactician, ac- 
celerated the recovery program and actually had only one serious dis- 
agreement with Roosevelt: the recognition of Russia, where he felt that 
Lltvlnofif outmaneuvered Roosevelt and obtained a soft recognition 
denied by the Wilson and succeeding administrations. These four 
years ended with each having great affection for the other. 

(2) The somber first two years of the second term, which saw the 
party disagreements over such Issues as the sit-down strike, the Supreme 
Court enlargement fiasco and the unsuccessful efforts to purge Demo- 
crats who did not go along with his entire program. From these 
Roosevelt and Garner emerged with less warmth than in their previous 

(3) The last two years which saw them in almost constant 

disagreement. The shocks to their amicable relations in these two 
years came so rapidly that it was difficult to divide them. From 
Garner's standpoint the reasons were: bigger-than-ever spending pro- 
posals; use of relief funds for political purposes; what Garner thought 
was Roosevelt's complete left-wing swing and the direction he was tak- 
ing the party; Roosevelt's ever greater ambitions for personal power; 
what Garner regarded as coddling of Communists and fellow-travelers 
and their infiltration into the government; and disagreements over 
executive nominations. 

Events of the next few weeks after the December 18 conversations 
gave a surface appearance of extreme cordiality between the President 
and Vice-President. Between the time of his White House visit and 
the opening of Congress, all pre-Congressional activity centered 
around the Vice-Presidential suite. So many Executive department 
administrators waited their turn outside his door that word got around 
town that "Garner is the man to see." There was evidence that the 
Administration wanted him to have full information on its proposed 
legislative program and his frank opinion of its chances for success. 

Anyone with a problem made a beeline to the Vice-President's 
office in the Capitol. For days he gave himself over to such interviews 
and attempts to reconcile conflicting viewpoints. His list of appoint- 
ments grew longer daily. He saw not only Senators, Representatives 
and Cabinet members, but everybody else of importance to the party 
who wished the hospitality of his office. 

Leading the trek to Garner's office was Harry L. Hopkins, who a 
week before had resigned as W.PA. administrator and had received 
a recess appointment as Secretary of Commerce. Senate confirma- 
tion of Hopkins, an erstwhile business baiter, to his new station, the 
business post in the Cabinet, was uncertain. 

The appropriation Congress had made for W.PA. for the year had 
been used up. Hopkins had been accused of using relief money to 
influence elections and the Senatorial investigation had borne out the 
accusations. At election time there had been 3,262,000 persons on 
W.P.A. rolls, the peak that agency reached during its existence. 

Henry Wallace came as Hopkins left and spent two hours discuss- 
ing the bogged-down agricultural program. The country had raised 
too much wheat that year; tobacco and rice farmers had refused to 

accept marketing programs proposed by the Agricultural Department. 

The session of Congress which opened on January 3, 1939, was 
destined to give Franklin D. Roosevelt his roughest legislative ride. 
Before it adjourned eight months later, on August 5, the President's 
Influence with it had been reduced to nil. 

In his Jackson Day speech on January 9, 1939, the President came 
out for unity but his prescription for concord was that those who 
disagreed with his policies cease their opposition or join the Republican 

He followed this by a series of appointments of New Deal lame 
ducks to key positions. The appointments found a hostile atmosphere. 
Touching off a series of explosions was the President's effort to punish 
venerable Senator Carter Glass. Because of Glass's opposition to parts 
of his program the President took his patronage away and conferred 
it on Governor Price of Virginia. Glass was old now, but he indomi- 
tably fought back. The Senate took Glass's side on a federal Judge 
nomination and rejected It by a near vote. 

The nomination which the Senate regarded as a defiance was that 
of Thomas R. Amlie, radical lame-duck Representative from Wisconsin, 
to be a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Immediately 
both Houses of the Wisconsin legislature passed resolutions asking the 
President to withdraw the nomination. 

Amlle denied being a Communist but he had asserted that "capital- 
ism is not worth saving." He advocated the scrapping of the capitalistic 
economy of the United States in favor of a production-for-use system 
in which a great central federal corporation would take over the con- 
trol and operation of 75 per cent of the nation's productive machinery. 
The Amlle nomination was finally withdrawn by the President. 

Another point of disagreement between the President and Vice- 
President at this time was amendments to the Wagner Labor Act. 
When this law was passed hurriedly in 1935? it was agreed it would 
have to be amended but that no step toward amendment would be 
taken until the Supreme Court had had opportunity to pass on its 
validity. The Supreme Court decision declaring it constitutional had 
come down two years since and still nothing had been done. 

"We had to have labor legislation," Garner said. "There is no doubt 
some corporations were oppressing labor. All experimental legislation 


has to be amended and the Democratic party, which is the friend of 
labor, should amend this. There are features of this law which have 
the effect of making this a government by bias. I don't want to 
abridge any of labor's rights, but all people in this country should be 
subject to the same laws. There should be no statutory exceptions. 
The Wagner Act has been interpreted and administered in a way 
to prevent normal discussion between employer and employee." 

After their three-hour discussion on December 18, Garner thought 
Roosevelt was agreeable to amendment and Barkley had indicated 
as much after talking to the President. 

But amendment proposals got nowhere. The House passed legis- 
lation, but it was bottled up in the Senate Labor Committee and no 
action ever was taken until the House and Senate passed the Taft- 
Hartley act over a Presidential veto in 1947. 

With his relations with Congress at an all-time low, Roosevelt 
prepared to swing in behind a lend-spend, pump-priming, planned- 
inflation program. The amount to be asked was nebulous but astro- 
nomical in the first trial balloons sent up. It might, the intimations were, 
reach $5,000,000,000. 

Reports flew around that Garner was against the plan. He was. On 
April 12, Roosevelt took notice of the widespread reports that there 
were strong differences between the Vice-President and himself over 
recovery methods. Edgy and irritated, the President told a press con- 
ference that recently published stories of a dispute with the Vice- 
President were falsifications out of the whole cloth. 

The President was especially disturbed about the circulation of a 
parable recited by the Vice-President. 

"Down in our country," the Vice-President was quoted as saying, 
"when cattle are grazing and taking on fat we don't bother them 
too much and we don't scare them. We ought to have as much con- 
sideration for human beings as we do for cattle." 

Although this quotation did not get into circulation until April, 
he had made substantially this statement to the President in the 
preceding December. He was trying to illustrate his point that there 
had been so many recovery methods started and stopped or switched 
that the nation never got a chance to recuperate and come back to 

health. He said that he believed if the people were left alone they 
would begin to produce and get out of the depression. 

The lend-spend bill was not sent to the Capitol until July. In its 
final form it provided loans up to a limit of $2,390,000,000, and the 
Reconstruction Finance Corporation was to be authorized to issue notes, 
debentures, bonds and other obligations of a maturity not to exceed 
thirty years. No one was left out of the planned-inflation largess. State, 
county and municipal public works; tenant farmers; farm laborers 
and sharecroppers; rural electrification and reclamation were among 
eligible beneficiaries. 

But when the plan finally appeared, one feature of it attracted more 
attention than the recommended money outlay. The President said 
in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee: 

"There seems to be no reason why there should not be adopted as 
a permanent policy of government the development of maintenance 
of a revolving fund fed from the earnings of these government invest- 
ments and used to finance new projects when there is need of extra 
stimulus of employment." 

Garner saw in this bill a spender's paradise, with its provisions 
for by-passing Congressional appropriations committees, the budget and 
the Treasury a socialization of credit. 

"This bill in some particulars is the worst that has come up here," 
he said. "It gives the President discretion to spend billions where he 
wants to, how he wants to and when he wants to. It is another step 
away from constitutional government and toward personal govern- 
ment. No money ought to be spent except that which Congress ap- 
propriates each year." 

The federal government at that time had a charge account of 
$38,000,000,000 and at that time Garner said he never had a personal 
charge account in his life. 

He told his close friend, John D. Ewing, Louisiana newspaper pub- 
lisher : 

"I never had a charge account and got no first-of-the-month bills 
other than utilities." 

The lend-spend proposal lost ground steadily. The Senate passed a 
version of it. The House kicked it out. By a vote of 193 to 167 it 
refused even to take it up for debate. 

Stress now began to be put on national defense. Congress In its 
appropriations granted all national-defense requests, totaling $2,000,- 
000,000. As the fiscal year 1939 ended and emphasis began to be put 
on expenditures for possible future war instead of for relief, there 
were still 6,630,000 households representing 19,650,000 persons receiv- 
ing relief or employment on federal works and even that was taking 
care of only half of the unemployed. 

At the last Cabinet meeting before leaving for home at the end of 
Congress, Garner again urged the cessation of shipments of petroleum, 
scrap and other war materials to war-like Japan. The President and 
Secretary Hull doubted we could do it alone and were not sure that 
Great Britain would act with us. The United States and Great Britain 
had been acting in concert in that theater for two years. 

"I never thought a white man ought to sell scalping knives to 
Indians," Garner said of our exportation of these war materials to the 

Garner's political star rose in 1939, as the President's hold on 
Congress sagged into impotency. The Vice-President was the man 
the tourists wanted to see at the Capitol. He was the man the poli- 
ticians wanted to see. He had risen to a place as a legislative factor 
reached by only two other men in modern times, the two great 
Speakers, Thomas B. Reed and Joseph G, Cannon. Although he 
maintained self-imposed silence, "leaks" made him the symbol of 
opposition to the course Roosevelt was taking. 

The Vice-President by now was receiving hundreds of letters each 
week telling him he was the hope of the country, urging that he 
stand for the Democratic Presidential nomination. 



Stop Garner 

JOHN NANCE GARNER abhorred even the idea of a third term 
for any President of the United States. 
But it was strictly an academic abhorrence at the time I first 
heard him discuss it. He had no idea the issue would arise. Cer- 
tainly he had no idea that he would be cast in the role of the only high 
elected officer in the nation standing alone in an unsuccessful effort 
to prevent a third-term Presidential nomination in his own party. 

On any matter of public policy, Garner always had an explicit judg- 
ment, not merely a casual notion. On the tenure of federal office- 
holders his opinion was fixed and positive. He told me his views in one 
of those Sunday evening gatherings at his hotel apartment in Wash- 
ington which were sometimes heterogeneous, sometimes homogeneous 
and sometimes very intimate affairs. 

"I believe in life tenure for Judges, with retirement provisions ade- 
quate to induce withdrawal from the bench of Judges of advanced 
age, or disability,' 1 he said. 

"I favor long service for members of the legislative branch, their 
constituencies willing. The two-year term for Representatives and six- 
year term for Senators gives their constituencies a chance to retire 
them or continue them on the records they have made. In a body as 
numerous as a legislative one only in extended incumbency can a man 
gain leadership and be in position to render the greatest service. 

"I believe in rotation in the office of President. The four-year term 
cannot be improved on. No poor President ought to stay more than 
four years and the best of Presidents should not hold on more than two 
four-year terms. A President, any President, weak or strong, is in 
position to exercise great power from the first breath he draws after 


taking the oath of office until he leaves that office. No man should 
exercise the great powers of the Presidency too long. My idea of a 
President is that of a citizen of ripe experience and sound patriotism 
who would fill this most powerful office in all the world for four or 
eight years and then go back and be a citizen just as George Washing- 
ton did." 

His opposition to undue prolongation of the executive tenure and his 
espousal of long service in the legislative branch was the result o 
experience. During his service in Washington, seven Presidents had 
occupied the White House. In that time also he had seen a complete 
turnover in the Supreme Court and in almost the entire federal 
judiciary; and there was not a face in the Senate which had been there 
when he came to Washington, but three of his first-term House col- 
leagues Norris of Nebraska, Glass of Virginia and Sheppard o 
Texas had moved over to the Senate. 

Garner realized as any student of politics does that a good politician 
in the White House can always bring about his own renomination. He 
said to me: 

"You can't beat the head of the party in the White House for renomi- 
nation if he wants renomination. There may be opposition to his re- 
nomination, even the majority of his party may think it is unwise. But 
how under our present system of nomination is the opposition going to 
be effective ? He is the head of the federal hierarchy and thousands o 
appointive and well-paid jobholders look to him for their own con- 
tinuance in office. National, state and perhaps even county officeholders 
ride into office on the strength of the head of the ticket. No candidate 
can contest a President of his party, man against man. He must contest 
the head of his party and the most powerful office in the world. 

"Heads of party machines can oppose him only at their own political 
peril. In these days of federal aid and subsidies it is easy to put relief, 
farm benefits and other government largess in places where they will 
do the most political good. All this is water on the wheel of the 
machines which are expected to turn in majorities. The munitions of 
these machines are jobs and money and nowadays it is federal jobs 
and federally appropriated money. 

"The President of the United States has a sounding board and 
vehicles for making public opinion which are available to no other 


official on earth. The whole people voting in an election may defeat 
him, but for the renomination in his party there is just one effective 
check against him and that is the self-restraint of the President himself." 

Although he had twice received nominations at the hands of national 
conventions and had been a delegate to four at Kansas City in 1900, 
St. Louis in 1904 and 1916 and at New York in 1924 Garner believed 
conventions had become less and less responsive to the wishes of the 
rank and file and progressively more easily manipulated by a few men. 
After the Madison Square Garden fiasco, which he left in disgust, he 
advocated preconvention primaries, followed by state conventions and 
a national convention. 

He had said: 

"No Presidential candidate in either party ever has fully used the 
primaries there are. The tendency has been for the candidate to enter 
only those primaries he is relatively sure he can win. I would like to 
see a Presidential-preference primary held in every state in the Union 
on the same day. All candidates ought to have to announce their candi- 
dacies and enter all primaries. Even some clear-cut issues might be put 
on the primary ballot for an advisory referendum. 

"The primaries, of course, would not be conclusive. The national con- 
vention would have to give weight to certain factors. A candidate whose 
primary showing indicated his strength in key electoral states might 
receive more consideration than one who had carried smaller or less 
doubtful states. It is not likely that in a field of candidates anyone 
could carry a majority of all the states in a primary. Then, there would 
be the Vice-Presidential nomination and the platform and the adver- 
tising which a convention gives to the nominees and the party's pledges. 
But the delegates from the states would know the sentiment of the 
people in the states." 

The second term was at its midway point before he gave any thought 
at all about either Roosevelt or himself being a possible Presidential 
candidate in 1940. Roosevelt had told him immediately after the 1937 
inauguration that he never intended to be a candidate again for any 
public office, and reiteration of this intention by the President at the 
Victory Dinner of the Democratic party on March 4, 1937, was taken 
by Garner as the final word on the matter. 

The Vice-President's first discussion with anyone on the direct 


/"Move OUT OF THE WAY, dors? 1 - , 



Garner In 1939 to k the lead in bringing about repeal of the 
embargo clause of neutrality act, which he had opposed when 
it was enacted. (C. K. Berryman, Washington Star) 

question of whether Roosevelt might or might not run again was with 
Harry L. Hopkins, and Hopkins brought the subject up on a visit 
to Garner's office while his nomination for Secretary of Commerce was 
pending in the Senate early in 1939. Hopkins was being assailed as the 
nominee for the business post in the Cabinet on the grounds that he 
was "anti-business." This bias Hopkins denied to Garner. 

"Hopkins brought up the question of a third term for Roosevelt 
and I told him if it was a possibility I was strictly against it," the Vice- 
President said. "Hopkins said he was, too, and he didn't think Roose- 
velt had any idea of running. 

"Then Hopkins said: 1 would like to be President of the United 
States sometime.' I asked him to tell me something of his background. 
He related that his father was a harnessmaker and told me of his 
youthful struggle to get ahead. I said: 'Harry, you have a right to 

[ 2 49 ] 

aspire to any office in this land, including the highest one. That is what 
our institutions and our way o life guarantee. You've got a following. 
I don't think so much of some of it, but you've got it." 

When Garner related this conversation to me, I asked him: 

"Did you tell Hopkins you would support him?" 

"No," he replied, "but he might be better than Roosevelt in some 
ways. There wouldn't be as much spending. Although he is just as 
anxious to spend as Roosevelt, he wouldn't have much influence with 
Congress. Roosevelt is persuasive and a hard man to resist." 

Afterward, Garner told me that Marvin Mclntyre, one of Roose- 
velt's secretaries, had told him he was sure the President had no inten- 
tion of seeking a third term. Garner did not know whether Mclntyre 
spoke from knowledge or whether it was conjecture, but he thought 
Hopkins spoke from knowledge and Garner put full credence in it. 

I suggested that Hopkins might have been feeling him out, but he 
did not think so. 

Support for Garner for President in 1940 first began to manifest 
itself in 1938. In September of that year the Texas state Democratic 
convention unanimously endorsed him as Roosevelt's successor in the 
White House. 

About the same time Senator Edward R. Burke of Nebraska said 
Garner was his 1940 Presidential choice. Burke had once been strong 
at the White House. 

Some Western progressives had even urged Burke as the Roosevelt 
running mate in 1936 if Garner retired. But Burke opposed the Supreme 
Court enlargement bill in 1937 and incurred the enmity of the President. 

The next move toward the Presidential nomination for Garner came 
at his log-cabin birthplace on Blossom Prairie in December 1938. A 
statewide gathering there launched a "Garner-in-i94o" boom. By this 
time the purge had failed, the Democrats had suffered a severe loss in 
strength in the November election and by all visible appearances 
Roosevelt's political fortunes were in a feeble state. 

From the date of the Victory Dinner in 1937, the preponderance 
of public and private discussion had supported the feeling that Roose- 
velt intended to retire. In July 1938, Governor Earle of Pennsylvania 
suggested that the President be a candidate for a third term. When 
reporters at the next press conference of the President asked him to 


comment on Earle's statement, the President told them they had better 
put on dunce caps and stand in the corner. These questions, however, 
continued to be asked at nearly every Presidential press conference for 
almost two years. 

Garner was now in his seventy-first year. He didn't look it and said 
he didn't feel it. He had no doubt of his physical fitness for any 

By January 1939, Garner was getting pretty hot as a Presidential 
prospect. All the polls were showing him leading if Roosevelt did 
not run. As Garner was adhering to the policy he announced on be- 
coming Vice-President and making no statements of any kind, some 
of my colleagues in the press gallery asked me if I knew what his 
attitude was. 

At the first opportunity I talked to him and asked him the direct 
question : whether he would take the nomination if it came to him. His 
reply I considered as being on the same basis as most of my other 
conversations with him confidential and I so treated it. 

In the conversation he said: 

"I don't want to be President. I did not want to be in 1932 and I 
don't want to now. I did not ask anyone to support me in 1932 and I 
will not be in the position of asking anyone to seek a delegate for me 
now, and if they follow my wishes no one will. But to answer your 
question directly: It is all right to talk about General Sherman's 
statement that he would not accept a nomination as President, if it 
was offered or serve if elected. There was more in his letter to Elaine 
than that. It is the great classic statement on why men who are 
'soldiers by education and nature and fitted to render great service 
to their country in military matters are not schooled in the practice 
in which civil communities should be governed, why a military man 
should refuse the office and why no civilian who has the qualifications 
for the office can refuse it. 

"The Presidency is the hardest job in the world and the highest 
honor and greatest obligation that can come to any American. If you 
have not connived in or abetted any effort in your behalf; if you 
really do not care for the office and the nomination comes to you 
because your party a*nd your country think you fitted for its duties, it 

is your duty to accept and serve. But I don't think I will be nominated 
and I don't want to be." 

Garner said that he felt at the time that the nomination was 
between Hull, Farley and himself and that left to its natural inclina- 
tions the party would nominate one of them. He added he would 
like to see Jesse Jones considered rather than himself. 

"If I had the matter in my hands and nothing but the good of the 
country and the success of the Democratic party to consider I would 
choose between Hull, Jones and Farley for our Presidential candidate." 

Of Hull he said: 

"I think Cordell would make a good President. Roosevelt would 
be more likely to support him than anyone who could get the nomi- 
nation. I could support Hull with enthusiasm." 

Of Jones he said: 

"Jesse Jones I put at the top of the list of all administrative officials 
during my time in Washington. More than anyone I have known he 
rises above red tape. Yet he does things according to law. He has a 
head full of sense and the confidence of the country. I think he would 
poll more independent votes than any other candidate we could 

Of Farley he said: 

"Farley is the greatest political organizer I have ever seen. There 
would be opposition to the nomination of a Catholic President. But 
as a candidate he would not have the handicaps of Al Smith. Pro- 
hibition and Tammany would not figure in it as in the case of Smith. 
Also the Republicans were in power when Smith was nominated and 
the Democrats will go into the next election with the record of having 
carried forty-six out of the forty-eight states in the last election. 
Farley has not had the government experience of some others, but he 
has grown. He is dependable in all things." 

One of the most ardent Garner backers was Richard W. Norton, a 
Texas and Louisiana oil man. Of all the Garner supporters, Norton 
was the only one who from the first felt sure that Roosevelt would 
seek a third term. 

"Why, he is panting to run," Norton had been saying as early as 
the autumn of 1938. "He is already running. That is what the purge 
was all about," 


By March the Garner campaign had picked up real momentum. The 
four months March, April, May and June saw the whole Democratic 
picture more clearly drawn. The first Garner impetus came when 
both Houses of the Texas legislature endorsed him in a statement which 
declared in part: 

"John Nance Gamer is hereby endorsed and put forward as a candi- 
date for the nomination of the high office of President of the United 
States, which we believe he would fill with ability and distinction." 

Almost simultaneously former Governors Ely of Massachusetts and 
Hodges of Kansas announced for Garner and a surprise Garner recruit 
was Henry Ford. 

"Jack Garner would make a mighty fine President," the automobile 
manufacturer said in a newspaper interview. "He's got a mighty fine 
record. He's on the spot. He knows what's going on. He's got the 
experience. As things are, I don't think you could make a better 

In March, the Gallup poll, asking the question: "If Roosevelt is not 
a candidate, whom would you like to see elected President in 1940?" 
got the following response from Democrats : 

Garner 42 per cent 

Hull 10 per cent 

Farley 10 per cent 

Hopkins 8 per cent 

McNutt 5 per cent 

Twenty-five per cent had no opinion or their votes were for candi- 
dates other than the five listed. 

On March 31, Raymond Clapper in a syndicated newspaper column 

"There is still time to stop Garner, but not very much. Garner now 
has behind him for the Democratic nomination the same kind of 
public momentum Alf Landon had for the Republican nomination in 
1936 long in advance of the convention." 

The Clapper story was a bugle call for the New Dealers, who were 
always people to be impressed by a headline or a column item. The 
"Stop-Garner" campaign began immediately. 

A week later a preview of the 1940 Democratic Presidential situa- 


tion among fifty leading Washington correspondents in 

showed that seventeen believed Garner would be the nominee; Cor dell 

Hull was the pick of ten of them, Roosevelt of eleven, with the others 


On the day the poll was printed, Garner said convincingly that 
if he could do what he wanted to he would box up his souvenirs, ship 
them to Uvalde and spend the rest of his days there. 

"You get peace and quiet and a chance to think down there," he 
said. "A man can tend to his chickens and go fishing and watch the 
water flow by under the shade of the trees. Here everything is 

In late April, Harry Hopkins announced from Warm Springs, after 
talking to Roosevelt, that he was changing his residence from New 
York to Iowa. If Roosevelt had any New Deal crown prince under 
consideration as his favorite for the 1940 nomination at that time, most 
politicians believed it was Hopkins. Garner himself felt this way, but 
said that despite Roosevelt's own great popularity he could never swing 
a Democratic convention to Hopkins. 

Some politicians, however, thought the change of address might 
mean he had Hopkins in view for his Vice-Presidential running mate. 
The Constitution bars Presidential electors from any state voting for 
both a President and Vice-President resident in the same state with 
themselves; and New York electors could not vote for both Roosevelt 
for President and Hopkins for Vice-President had both of them been 
residents of New York. 

In May the "Draft Roosevelt" plan was being pushed by left-wing 
Roosevelt appointees. Hopkins, who a few months before had told 
Garner he opposed a third Roosevelt nomination, was directing it and 
Tom Corcoran apparently was second in command. Corcoran was 
recovering from an operation at Johns Hopkins and Harry Hopkins 
found it necessary to go to Mayo's, but they had plenty of assistance at 
headquarters in the Interior Department. 

On May 7, Charles Michaelson, publicity director for the Democratic 
national committee, took occasion in a national committee release to 
deny any feud between the President and Vice-President. All talk of the 
"seething fury of their differences, is Republican propaganda," he 


Garner himself said to me about this time: 

"So far as I know we are personally on good terms. He is a pleasant, 
fascinating man. But you can have affable dealing with a man and 
disagree with the way he performs as a public official. We are not in 
accord on some of our theories of government. I have been disap- 
pointed with the turn things have taken in his second term. He is 
getting authority to spend too much money, he has too much power 
and is continually asking for more. He has and wants to retain the 
discretion to create boards and commissions and agencies which can 
make laws or at least regulations with all the authority of law 
and to do things I think only Congress ought to have the right to do. 

"He has changed in office. He does not delegate. His nature is to want 
to do everything himself. He does not take a long-range view and 
continually improvises. There is great waste and inefficiency in adminis- 
tration. Some of the things he does appear to me intended more to 
create a favorable political effect for him than to aid the country. 
There is no use to pretend personal relations with a man are as pleasant 
when you disagree with him on policies as when you agree and are 
working together in a common cause, but I don't think there is per- 
sonal discord between us." 

The May Gallup poll, at the end of two months of "Stop-Garner" 
effort saw Garner jump to 50 per cent, a gain of 8 per cent. 

On May n, Earl Browder, general secretary and 1936 Presidential 
candidate of the Communist party, told the annual convention of the 
Young Communist League in New York that the Communist party 
would support President Roosevelt for a third term. 

The Workers Alliance convened in a government building, the 
Labor Department Auditorium on June 3. On June 6, it adopted a 
"Stop-Garner" resolution and on the same day at the Capitol a Demo- 
cratic special House committee, headed by Representative Woodrum 
of Virginia, investigating Administration work relief, entered into 
the record that Communists held a majority of the membership on 
the national executive committee of the Alliance, that 90 per cent of 
its dues-paying members were Communists and that Herbert Benj amin 3 
secretary-treasurer of the Alliance had received a course of training in 
Moscow for the hunger strike he led on Washington. 

Cordiality among high Democrats was not increased when, on the 

day following, Mrs. Roosevelt addressed the Alliance, was made an 
honorary member and left the platform with an armful of flowers. 

At the end of May the "draft-Roosevelt" movement was seemingly 
making little progress. In Congress, Roosevelt was meeting rebuffs all 
along the line except on appropriations for national defense. Most 
politicians apparently felt that barring a war psychology, Roosevelt, 
handicapped by the third-term issue, would be weaker than Garner 
or Hull Many influential Democratic leaders privately were expressing 
themselves against a third term, but Mayor Kelly of Chicago, Gov- 
ernor Olson of California and Guffey and Earle of Pennsylvania were 
openly for a third term* 

Harold Ickes prepared an article for publication in the June issue 
of Loo^ Magazine demanding that the President stand for a third term. 
On its appearance the President in no public way rebuked Ickes for the 

Harry Hopkins at Grinnell, Iowa, whence he had gone to go through 
the formality of changing his residence from New York, on June 16 
issued a statement declaring for Roosevelt for a third term. 

The Democratic membership of the Senate, if cloakroom conver- 
sation and its past voting record was an indicator, was overwhelmingly 
against a third term in 1939. The Senate in 1927 had adopted the 
anti-third-term resolution sponsored by the younger Senator Robert 
M. La Follette of Wisconsin. At that time it was believed Calvin 
Coolidge might offer for nomination. The La Follette resolution read: 

"Resolved, that it is the sense of the Senate that the precedent estab- 
lished by Washington and other Presidents of the United States in 
retiring from the Presidential office after their second term has become, 
by universal concurrence, a part of our Republican form of government, 
and that any departure from this time-honored custom would be 
unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions." 
The roll call showed fifty-six Senators voting for the La Follette resolu- 
tion. Twenty-four of these men were still in the Senate when the 
Roosevelt third-term campaign was on. Among them were: George, 
Gerry, Glass, Harrison, Ashurst, Barkley, Hayden, King, McKellar, 
Neeley, Pittman, Sheppard, Smith, Thomas of Oklahoma, Tydings, 
Wagner and Wheeler, Also still in the Senate were La Follette, author 


of the resolution, and Norris of Nebraska, both of whom had sup- 
ported Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936. 

The Democrats had a long list of party positions against the third 
term, including the very explicit one of 1896, which read: 

"We declare it to be the unwritten law of this Republic, established 
by custom and usage of 100 years and sanctified by the examples of the 
greatest and wisest of those who founded and have maintained our 
Government, that no man should be eligible to a third term in the 
Presidential office." 

The House of Representatives, in the only time the matter had 
been squarely before it, in 1875, had voted 233 to 38 against breaking 
the two-term tradition. 

A newspaper report a few months after the third-term efforts 
began said that twenty-eight Senators had pledged their support to 
Garner and against a third term. There was no such group action, 
although at least that many individual Senators encouraged his can- 
didacy and many did pledge support. Garner had a big cheering sec- 
tion of Senators, Representatives, Governors and other major office- 
holders. They encouraged his candidacy to him in private, but most 
of them remained silent in public. 

Public statements expressing opposition to a third term or in sup- 
port of other candidates rather than Roosevelt were made by Senators 
Glass and Byrd of Virginia, Adams of Colorado, James Hamilton 
Lewis of Illinois, Smith of South Carolina, Johnson of Colorado, 
George of Georgia, Sheppard and Connally of Texas, Clark of Mis- 
souri, Van Nuys of Indiana, Gillette and Herring of Iowa, Tydings of 
Maryland, Walsh of Massachusetts, Andrews of Florida and Overtoil 
of Louisiana in addition to the earlier statements of Burke, Logan and 
McCarran. Senator Vic Donahey of Ohio, at least privately opposed 
a third term. 

In June, a Garner-for-President campaign committee, under the 
direction of Texas Democratic State Chairman Eugene Germany and 
Texas Democratic National Conimitteewoman Clara Driscoll, began 
to function in Texas. Germany, in announcing the organization, said 
that Texas would put Garner in nomination regardless of who else 
ran. The "regardless" could mean no one except Roosevelt. To the 
rabid Roosevelt officeholders this was less majesty. But Garner 


backers said a Presidential candidacy required neither apology or 
explanation. Both Germany and Miss Driscoll were at pains to say 
that it was "strictly a pro-Garner and not an anti-Roosevelt move- 

Garner told me he was beginning to think Roosevelt wanted the 
situation explored and that if he could get the nomination in an 
acceptable way, he would run. An "acceptable way" he described as 
being without too much of a convention fight and the likelihood of 
an even or better than even chance of winning the election. (After he 
left office, Garner told me, piecing together all the information he 
had, he felt that Roosevelt had made up his mind to run in June 1939.) 

"You can draw your own deductions from his actions," the Vice- 
President said. "I think you will agree that he does not detest the 
idea of a third term. If he did he would call these people off. They 
are on the federal payroll, under his direction, and they would dis- 
continue their activity if he showed the slightest displeasure. I don't 
think there is any public demand for him to run yet, but it can be 
created by exactly the methods that are being pursued." 

I asked him jestingly why he didn't ask Roosevelt if his previous 
statement to him that he did not intend to run still went. 

"There is no reason for that. Anyway, I don't see him alone any 
more," Garner replied. "It is always either in a Cabinet meeting or 
with the legislative leaders. He quit inviting me for luncheons at his 
desk after the polls began showing me high up in the list of his pos- 
sible successors. I am not responsible for that I'm not conducting 
the polls but they've stopped my luncheon invitations." 

In more serious vein Garner said he thought Roosevelt was a very 
jealous man, did not like it because he thought the Vice-President was 
popular at the Capitol and could not be very cordial with anyone who 
had been so much as mentioned as the Democratic Presidential candi- 

After he went out of office, Mr. Garner told me that the invitations 
to luncheon ceased more than a year before the 1940 Democratic 
national convention. He said Roosevelt, however, continued his prac- 
tice of giving the Vice-President Christmas remembrances through the 
Christmas of 1939. 

Garner and Farley had another talk about this time. The Vice- 


President told me none o the details. Farley at the time had just 
talked to Roosevelt and many months afterward revealed that Roose- 
velt had again told him that he would not run for a third term. He 
had sworn Farley to secrecy, the Postmaster General later said. Farley 
went off to Europe after his confab with Garner. He thought perhaps 
by the time he returned Roosevelt would make a statement taking 
himself out of the race. Garner was beginning to doubt it very 

The torrid issue about this time was the Hatch act. This measure 
authored by Senator Hatch of New Mexico, the late Senator Morris 
Sheppard of Texas and Senator Warren Austin, recently the United 
States representative on the United Nations, was the outgrowth of the 
Sheppard committee's denunciation of W.P.A.'s use of relief funds for 
political purposes in the 1938 election. 

Starting out as a modest measure to prevent the exploitation of 
relief workers by political bosses and candidates, it wound up as an 
all-inclusive prohibition of political activity by federal employees. More 
than a majority of the convention which renominated Roosevelt 
and Garner in 1936 had been made up of postmasters, United States 
marshals, internal-revenue collectors and other federal officeholders 
or their close relatives. 

Garner backed the Hatch bill and the Administration threw every 
possible obstacle in its path. On July 12, the Garner campaign com- 
mittee announced it would follow the principles of the Hatch act 
whether it became a law or not. 

The Senate in a wild thirteen-hour session finally passed the bill on 
July 21. The President took the full constitutional time to consider it. 
Administrative aids said he was searching for one good, unassailable 
reason to veto it. Evidently the search failed. The President signed the 
bill, but accompanied his signature with a unique message to Con- 
gress interpreting the new law. 

Garner told me at the time that while any President could renomi- 
nate himself, any President would find difficulty in naming his suc- 
cessor. He thought the Hatch act might prevent an officeholder's 
oligarchy controlling Presidential succession by letting the President 
name his successor-nominee. 

The army of federal employees had increased from 563,487 to 932,654 


between the time Roosevelt came in and the passage of the Hatch act. 
Of these, 300,000 were outside the Civil Service. 

Garner later admitted the Hatch act failed its purpose. It was soon 
apparent that the federal officeholders' machine would select the dele- 
gates even if the law prevented them from being delegates themselves. 
Apparent violations of the law were winked at. Third-termers on 
the federal payroll went on unmolested with their campaign. "You 
can't write any law that will be enforced if the executive branch does 
not want to enforce it," Garner said. 

On July 28, John L. Lewis, appearing before the House Labor 
Committee on amendments to the wage-hour act, attacked the Vice- 
President as a "labor-baiting, poker-playing, whisky-drinking, evil old 

The attack was no surprise to Garner. He believed that Lewis had 
been gunning for him since the Vice-President had urged vigorous 
action against the then Lewis-headed C.I.O. Automobile Workers 
Union in Its 1937 sit-down strike. Garner had also backed the Byrnes 
resolution condemning the sit-down strikes. 

Lewis at this time was very close to left-wing promoters of the Roose- 
velt draft and although he was eventually to bolt Roosevelt's third- 
term race at the time he attacked Garner he had access to the New 
Deal inner circle. He also had tossed $500,000 into the Democratic 
campaign jackpot in 1936. 

Garner merely chuckled when reporters asked him to comment on 
Lewis* Thespian performance. In his hotel sitting room he said: 

"There has never been anything that caused me more happiness 
than Lewis' outburst. I think the majority of the people will think 
that anyone Lewis can't control is all right." 

Then on the general subject of attacks and criticism he said: 

"A public man is judged by his record and not by what people may 
say about him from time to time. Criticism brings a public man to the 
attention of the public and gives people a chance to analyze his 
record. When the criticism has merit it is helpful. When it has no 
merit it is of no effect." 


Will Accept the Nomination' 

HIS years of association with Franklin D. Roosevelt had not 
convinced Vice-President Garner that the President pos- 
sessed traits which would make him the best war leader if this 
country entered the war. 

As a matter of fact. Garner thought that if we were drawn into war 
Roosevelt's desire to do everything both on the military and civilian 
fronts might be a definite handicap to our conduct of it. 

War talk was becoming general throughout the country in the mid- 
summer of 1939 and I asked the Vice-President what effect it would 
have on the Democratic nomination and if it would improve Roose- 
velt's chances. At that time there were no announced candidates. 

"Of course, it would furnish the needed talking point for the 
people who are trying to win a third term for him," Garner said. "I 
don't think war is inevitable. I have never heard Roosevelt or anyone 
else say that it is. God knows, I hope we don't get into another one. 
These European wars never seem to settle anything. They unsettle. 
Every war there seems to create the necessity of another one. A war 
now would be the most wasteful and costly in history. We would 
probably have to do most of the fighting and pay most of the money 

"I am against a third term whether there is war in Europe and the 
Orient or not. There are many men of capacity in the Democratic 
party. If war comes and we stay out of it our interest will be in bring- 
ing about a just peace. Any President backed by the might of this 
country can be effective in that way. If we go to war, whoever is 
President, the nation will commit its total resources human, produc- 

tion, money and credit to the effort and will fight it hard and bring it 
to a conclusion as quickly as possible." 

Roosevelt, Garner said, did not make good use of men in peace and 
might have the same failing in wan 

"He wants to be his own Secretary of State, his own Secretary of 
the Treasury, his own Secretary of War and, especially, his own 
Secretary of Navy now," he said. 

The most extended talk I^ever had with Mr. Garner on the third term 
occurred shortly after this, on August 4, 1939. He was preparing to 
leave for Texas and was in the fine humor he always was when he was 
ready to board a train for home. A delegation of Senators, headed by 
Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri, had just presented him with a 
wicker chair for use on his Uvalde sun porch. 

"I've thought a great deal about this third-term situation and my 
relation to It," Garner said to me. "The arguments against a third term 
for any man are unanswerable. If Roosevelt runs I will oppose his 
nomination in every way I can. If this campaign had not started in 
my behalf I might find more effective ways to fight a third term. I 
don't want to be President. I have had everything from my party I 
have a right to ask or expect. I want to be of what service I can to it, 
but as a private citizen. 

"I had hoped Roosevelt would issue a statement taking himself out 
of the race. This movement has been going on for months now. It was 
started by and is still being fostered by job holders to whom Roosevelt 
is a meal ticket. They are trying to bring about a situation where no 
one else can develop strength or even aspire out loud until Roosevelt 
makes his wishes known, and they hope to have things sewed up by 
that time. They are trying to keep every other possible candidate at the 
mercy of a man who has already had two terms. Whether Roosevelt 
finally runs or not it is obvious now that the two-term tradition has 
no force with him. If it did he would have smothered this campaign 
for him. 

"I would be against a third term on principle even if I approved 
every act of Roosevelt's two terms. I would oppose my own brother 
for a third term." 

Garner pointed to a poll just conducted in California which had 
shown that 60 per cent of those taking part had favored election of a 


John L. Lewis in 1940 attacked Roosevelt, Garner and Paul V. 
McNutt. (C. K. Berryman, Washington Star) 

Democrat for President in 1940., but 64 per cent of them opposed a 
third term. 

"You can make a very strong case in the affirmative on whether 
Roosevelt wants a third term by the record of this Congress," Garner 
said. "Instead of surrendering some of the emergency powers granted 
him, almost every Administration bill that has come in here at this 
session has asked for more power to exercise and more money to spend. 

"The rule against the third term has the sanction of history and has 
been supported by an overwhelming majority of the people. The 
Democratic party position on it has been so clear that it is unthinkable 
that there will not be a fight for the party's traditional principle. 

"If I have to make the fight I will do it and I don't expect much 
help and I don't see any chance of success. You risk defeat on any issue 
and on this one it is practically preordained. There are Senators here 
who are as much opposed to a third term as they were to the purge, 

but they cannot make their opposition effective. If they come out for 
anyone else, even though Roosevelt is not an announced candidate, they 
are classed as anti-Roosevelt and against the head of the party. Until 
he announces his plans, all processes of the discussion and choice among 
other candidates is subdued." 

Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 
3. On September 21, Congress met in special session to repeal the 
embargo clause in the neutrality act. Garner, hurrying back from a 
brief vacation, took a leading part in obtaining the repeal of this legis- 
lation, which he had opposed from the beginning. 

The war in Europe in no way slowed down the third-term campaign. 
The President had asked for consideration of the embargo repeal 
without discussion or consideration of party politics. In the midst of 
its consideration Secretary of Agriculture Wallace sounded the clarion 
call which thereafter was the main reliance of the drafters that the 
war made it necessary for Roosevelt to run for a third term. 

The Wallace statement, made at San Francisco, put four Cabinet 
members behind the third-term drive. The others were Secretary of the 
Interior Ickes, who had taken his stand in June and was presently 
directing the drive; Harry L. Hopkins, who had also announced for 
a third term in June; and Attorney General Frank Murphy, a July 

Also behind the draft movement now were: Mayor Kelly of Chicago, 
Mayor Hague of Jersey City; Governor Olson o California; former 
Governor Earle of Pennsylvania; former Governor Leche of Louisiana; 
former Governor Trapp and National Committeeman Ferris of Okla- 
homa, and Senators Guffey of Pennsylvania, Pepper of Florida, Murray 
of Montana, and Smathers of New Jersey. 

Understood to be against a third term, but not on public record, were 
Secretary of State Hull, Secretary of War Woodring and Postmaster 
General Farley. The other members of the Cabinet were silent. 

The third-term pushers were now stressing the claim that President 
Roosevelt more than anyone could be depended on to keep the war 
In bounds. 

Joseph E. Davies, former Ambassador to Russia, came out for a third 
term. So did Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy. Kennedy 
was the first right-winger to join the movement for a third term. 


Garner was more and more inclined "to believe that Roosevelt 
wanted another four years in the White House. The Vice-President 
said to me during the embargo repeal negotiations with Congressional 
leaders : 

"He didn't talk like a man who was coming to the end of his term. 
He didn't say that war was inevitable, but he gave the impression 
that if there was one he intended to run it." 

Garner recognized how formidable Roosevelt had become on granted 
powers, and felt that the rebuffs the President had received in the 
regular session of Congress had not clipped his wings much. 

"Congress has not denied him anything public opinion in the coun- 
try wanted him to have and it has given him power, which in my judg- 
ment, the country does not want him to have," Garner said. 

"The President has got so much power that he can legislate whether 
Congress is in session or not. Through regulations the executive depart- 
ment of this government is legislating every day on things that affect 
the lives of 130,000,000 people. 

"Any man who had been President during this period of stress 
when the government refinanced hundreds of thousands of city and 
farm mortgages and rescued millions of bank accounts, would have 
a deep hold on the people. Roosevelt has rung the changes and drama- 
tized and personalized his action. He is the greatest advertiser the world 
has ever known. 

"This administration has got more money available for press-agent 
purposes than Mark Hanna used to elect McKinley. Hanna got his 
from, corporations. This comes out of the pocket of the taxpayers." 

He said he thought the law of political self-preservation would keep 
many men who were opposed to a third term from speaking out. 

"But some of us can make it plain we are not going along. Maybe all 
we can do is to make ourselves ridiculous. As far as I am concerned I 
am willing to look ridiculous if I can do anything to stop it." 

In November, Mr. Garner, who up to now had taken no part in the 
campaign, said he would consider making a statement about his posi- 
tion and wished to discuss the form of it with me. But when I arrived in 
Uvalde he still doubted whether it was the opportune time to make the 
statement, so I came away empty handed. He did discuss the situation, 
but not for publication. 

[ 265 1 

He thought Roosevelt had persuaded himself that he was the only 
man capable of filling the office of President. He said someone had to 
oppose the third-term maneuvering. Hull and Farley, who with him 
were the most talked-of possibilities, were in the Cabinet and hardly 
could contest the nomination without getting out. (Hull later refused 
to allow his friends to be active for him. Farley entered and obtained 
primary delegates only in Massachusetts.) 

He said that he would not be a stalking horse and if he did allow 
the use of his name he would mean what he said about his candidacy. 

We discussed the candidates, if Roosevelt did not run. 

"Cordell Hull could win the election," Garner said. "Dewey, I think, 
is likely to be the Republican candidate. He will carry most of the 
primaries he goes into. He is able, but his youth and the fact that he 
has never been elected to a statewide office will be against him in the 
election. Taft has been in the Senate only a couple of years and has 
had no time to make a record. Vandenberg might make the best 
Republican candidate, but it doesn't look to me like he has a very good 
chance for the nomination." 

I asked him if he had ever had any disagreements with Hull. 

"The only differences between us were on the tariff," he said. "Hull 
favored a tariff for revenue. So did I, but I wanted a tariff that would 
equalize the cost of production at home and abroad a competitive 
tariff. The only cross word in our long association, I regret to say, was 
spoken by me in the heat of a discussion of a tariff-bill conference 

"If I wanted the nomination I could contest with Hull and Farley 
and whichever of us won we would remain friends." 

In December, Eugene Lorton of the Tulsa World, for whose news- 
paper I had been the Washington correspondent for more than twenty 
years, visited Mr. Garner and telephoned me that Mr. Garner was 
ready to make a statement. I went to San Antonio and met Richard 
Norton and Roy Miller, leaders in the Garner movement. We drove 
to Uvalde. 

When Garner greeted us at his home his face was a tomato tan. He 
had been out of doors most of the time since he arrived from Wash- 


"You look like the original red-white-and-blue candidate," Norton 
said to him. "Red face, white hair, blue eyes." 

The Vice-President was dressed in morning clothes. A young couple 
he had known all their lives were being married and were coming 
over to get the blessing of Uvalde's first citizen. 

He said he was willing to make a statement. We discussed two or 
three drafts. Finally he took a pencil and wrote a forty-four-word 
statement, said it was too long, but let it stand. The statement said: 

"I will accept the nomination for President. I will make no effort 
to control any delegates. The people should decide. A candidate should 
be selected at the primaries and conventions as provided by law, and I 
sincerely trust that all Democrats will participate in them." 

Norton, Miller and I remained for lunch. The Vice-President then 
changed to camping clothes, took the wheel of his automobile and drove 
off on a fishing trip. His statement attracted wide and favorable atten- 
tion in the press, but Democratic officeholders and professional Demo- 
cratic politicians generally remained in their storm cellars. 

In New York, Al Smith said: 

"I think and always did think that two terms were enough for any 
man. It's been a sort of an unwritten part of our Constitution since the 
days of Washington. . . . It's kind o a tradition an American tradi- 

"Garner's all right. . . . He certainly knows what's going on. . . . He's 
been hanging around Washington most of his life and should know. 
. . . And I'm reasonably sure he knows the mistakes of the last seven 

Smith said there were other men than Garner, worthy of considera- 
tion, including Owen D. Young, Senator Byrd of Virginia and former 
Governor Ely of Massachusetts. 

The man in the brown derby continued : 

"If you want a good, shrewd, able businessman to solve some o the 
problems growing out of the financial and taxing mess, take Wendell 
Willkie. . . . He's a Democrat, I understand, though I am not sure, 
and he comes from Indiana. . . . Al Smith? Too old. . . . Yeh, I know 
Garner is older, but he's had more outdoor exercise than I have." 

At his first press conference in Washington after the Garner an- 
nouncement, President Roosevelt was asked to comment on it and on his 


own third-term aspirations. Mr. Roosevelt replied that he was too busy 
with foreign and domestic affairs to talk about potential events a long 
way off. 

That long way, the seven months before the Democratic national con- 
vention, was to be one of the most interesting and peculiar periods in 
the history of party politics. 

When Vice-President Garner went to the White House on January 
3, 1940, his own declared candidacy for the Presidentcy was nearly a 
month old and he was fast coming to the point where he believed that 
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a full-panoplied candidate for a third term. 

It would be the first time since the development of the party system 
in this nation that a President and Vice-President who had twice 
shared enormous electoral majorities would be arrayed against one 
another for the party nomination. 

The meeting was amiable enough, but they were not alone. Speaker 
Bankhead, Senate Majority Leader Barkley and House Majority Leader 
Rayburn also were in attendance. Their business was to discuss the 
legislative program at the session of Congress convening the next day. 

At a press conference that afternoon the President was asked to com- 
ment on two articles that had appeared in the morning papers of that 
day. One was that Roosevelt would push Cordell Hull for the Presi- 
dential nomination. The other was a statement by Rex Tugwell that 
Roosevelt definitely would not run for a third term and the New 
Dealers would have to find a new leader. He declined to discuss either 

Hull about this time declined to allow Tennessee friends to put him 
into the race, but left the way open for his choice as a compromise 
candidate. Paul V. McNutt had announced he would not be a candi- 
date if Roosevelt ran. Only Farley remained as a possible "no strings" 

Roosevelt had done an unusual thing in connection with the $100- 
per-plate Jackson Day Dinner. He had asked Republican leaders to 
attend. They declined. Roosevelt's speech, the vaguest he had ever 
made at the traditional Democratic money-raising dinner, caused in- 
creased belief he would be a candidate. An incident of the dinner was 
the booing of Senator Hatch, author of the bill curbing political 
activity by federal employees. 

After the dinner, Garner said to me: 

"Roosevelt made a very unusual request o rne tonight. He leaned 
over to me and said: 'Jack, if anything happens to rne I have just one 
request I want to make o you. I hope you will appoint "Pa" Watson 
Ambassador to Belgium.' " 

Watson, a brigadier general and former military aide to the President, 
was at that time a Presidential secretary in charge of making appoint- 
ments for Presidential callers. 

Garner's popularity in all polls continued to increase. A January 
Gallup poll showed that 58 per cent of the Democrats favored the 
nomination of Garner if Roosevelt did not run. McNutt had risen to 
second place with 17 per cent, Hull had 13 per cent and Farley 8 
per cent. 

As polls showed Garner's big lead, more and more state political 
leaders called on him. One delegation was from Wisconsin, where the 
first primary of any of the larger states is held. A poll there had 
shown 65 per cent of the Democrats in favor of Garner. 

William D. Carroll, the Wisconsin state Democratic chairman, was 
a Garner man. He was anxious, however, to find out if Roosevelt 
intended to run, was irked at the President's failure to make a state- 

Carroll decided to wait no longer and on February 5 sent Garner 
a telegram informing him a full slate of Garner delegates was being 
entered in the primary ticket. 

On the same day President Roosevelt said at a press conference 
at Hyde Park that he was getting tired of efforts to sound him out 
on a third term. He made known that when he had anything to say 
he would say it. 

"Your newspapers are very silly," the President said to the re- 
porters, "because very obviously, when anything is said it will be at a 
time of my choosing and not of their choosing." 

A reporter said: 

"We will keep on trying, Mr. President." 

The President admonished the reporters to tell their editors they 
were placing the reporters in "a ridiculous or immature position in 
continuing to ask these questions." 

On February 7, Garner bucked the powerful Kelley-Nash machine 


by entering the Illinois primaries. Garner in entering Illinois had 
made a sworn statement that he was a candidate. All interpretations 
of the Illinois law up to this time were that a sworn statement from 
the candidate was necessary before the candidate's name could be put 
on the ticket, but Illinois officials ruled differently this time and 
Roosevelt's name went on the ballot. Roosevelt had until February 
24 to withdraw his name in Illinois, but he was on the high seas at 
that time and his name stayed on. The President now was at least a 
passive candidate in Illinois, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. 

The Vice-President knew the cards were stacked against him and 
now felt certain that the cues for the third-term campaign were com- 
ing from the White House, and were being so manipulated that the 
President could get the benefit of his party position without having 
the handicap of the third-term issue. 

"It in effect is a plebiscite on his record conducted in his own party 
instead of a vote on an open candidacy," Garner said. "There Is no 
risk to him. The country is kept guessing. It scuttles all democratic 
processes. He can work this so the nomination will be worthless to 
anyone else but himself." 

Nevertheless, the Garner campaign committee, with Mr. Garner's 
hearty consent, decided to contest California and Oregon. In his letter 
allowing his name to be used in the California preference primary, he 
directed an implied rebuke at Roosevelt for his continued silence. 

His statement plainly indicated that, in his belief, the time had 
come for Mr. Roosevelt to declare his intentions in order that Demo- 
cratic voters might make a free choice among Democratic aspirants. 

Garner said: 

"I am sure you are actuated by the same thought and purpose 
which caused me to announce my willingness to accept the nomina- 
tion, namely a desire to be of service to our beloved country subject 
only to the expressed will of the people. 

"Free government is safe as long as the people have the right and 
opportunity to choose their public servants. My candidacy is in the 
hands of the people for their verdict at the Democratic convention at 
Chicago July 15, or at the general election next November." 

Garner's men said things began to get progressively rougher for 

them as the state machines got what they regarded as Roosevelt green 
lights from Washington. 

Roy Miller, a close friend of Garner and an ardent worker for his 
nomination,, told me in February: 

"Some of the fellows who told me they were against a third term 
as a matter of principle seem to be rising above principle now. 
Between officeholders and people getting subsidies there are not many 
people left to talk to." 

"We get plenty of encouragement, but our encouragers stop there. 
In one state this week I asked a lawyer what he was willing to do. 
He said he could do nothing as his firm was handling H.O.L.C. and 
F.H.A. business, which they might lose, and it would be unfair to his 
partners for him to cause them the loss. Another businessman told 
me his firm had some military supply contracts and he could not take 
the risk of opposing Roosevelt." 

In March, the campaign was proceeding in Wisconsin. It was a 
particularly hard state to contest. Roosevelt had got his strength there 
in his two winning campaigns from the La Follette Progressives and 
in return had given them his support in their local and state cam- 
paigns. The third-party Progressives are free under Wisconsin law 
to go into either the Republican or Democratic Presidential primaries 
as they hold none of their own. 

The Progressives swarmed into the Democratic primary and despite 
the good races put up by Garner delegates in the state outside of 
Milwaukee, Garner got only three Wisconsin delegates and Roosevelt 

Roosevelt also swept Illinois in the primary the following week. In 
California, where Garner had defeated both Roosevelt and Smith in 
1932, Roosevelt had a one-sided victory, with only one of the state's 
delegates going to Garner. 

But some of the New Dealers still thought Roosevelt would not 
run. Rex Tug well took this view in an article in LooJ^ Magazine in 

"Recent events in Europe's war make it more certain that Franklin 
D. Roosevelt will leave office next January. These events seem likely 
to make him emphasize more boldly the solid American commitment 

to democracy, and, to do this with action, which means he does not 
Intend to run." 

Before the Democratic national convention met in Chicago, Garner 
was not only certain that Roosevelt would be nominated but barring 
a miracle would be elected. The Vice-President, who was never fooled 
on any election, felt that the Willkie nomination at Philadelphia was 
another "throw-away" for the Republicans. 

"By all standards as political parties have applied them in this 
country, Willkie is the least available of any Presidential candidate 
nominated by either party in modern times," Garner told me. "He 
has no record of either elective or appointive public service and no 
record of high military service. 

"He has been elected to no office at all nor received a preference 
in any party primary. There is not a shred of ballot-box evidence 
that he has any grass-root strength for he entered no Presidential 
primary nor was he considered in any state convention electing dele- 

"His utility background and his Wall Street law practice will be 
against him with many independents and progressive voters. He is an 
unknown quantity to the country from every standpoint . insofar as 
public office is concerned. I know all about the telegrams, but tele- 
grams don't come from polling booths. He is a former Democrat and 
can hardly expect the enthusiastic support of the Republican organiza- 

"Any candidate considered at Philadelphia would, in my opinion, 
have done better than Willkie will this fall. There are twenty million 
Republicans and last-ditch anti-Roosevelt Democrats and I doubt 
if Willkie gets many more than those." 

The Vice-President was surprised that as the Dewey and Taft 
deadlock developed Vandenberg had not been the compromise candi- 

"A man has got to be what he is, and so has a party," he said. "The 
Republicans are out of character without a Republican as their candi- 

I was elected a delegate at large from Texas to tr^e Democratic 
national convention. Just before I left for the Chicago session, Mr. 
Garner told me he wished me to serve as his proxy on the Democratic 


national committee and to serve as his spokesman at Chicago i any 
occasion arose for it. He said I was to take whatever action I thought 
best in any case without consultation with him or anyone else. 

There had recently been some talk and Garner had been felt out- 
he did not know how authoritatively on whether or not he would 
be agreeable to "making it the same old team" for a third time. If 
that developed from any source to the point where it became a con- 
vention floor matter, it was understood between us I was to go to the 
Speaker's stand and tell the convention that Mr. Garner would not 
again take the Vice-Presidency under any circumstances. 

No action was ever necessary. The bewildered delegates waited 
around until President Roosevelt named Henry Wallace as his choice 
for running mate; they came near to rebelling at this point but finally 
accepted him. 

I was confronted with another proposal, however, about which 
' I had not talked to Mr. Garner. The triumphant New Dealers were 
making an energetic effort to bring about an acclamation nomination. 
Some of our Texas delegates talked to me about it and said that in 
view of the certainty of Roosevelt's nomination they felt it would be 
best not to put Mr. Garner's name before the convention and hoped 
I would see the situation in the same, light. 

I told them I could not see it in this light; that Mr. Garner regarded 
the precedent against a third term for any President almost as com- 
pelling as a provision in the Constitution itself; that he had never 
had any idea he could beat Roosevelt if Roosevelt wanted to run, 
but that he had stood for the nomination and obtained delegates and 
his name would go before the convention. The argument was then 
advanced that he would be booed and that, in view of his long party 
service and the high office he held, he should not be subjected to that. 

My reply was : 

"Mr. Garner in the last six months has gone through an experience 
that is bound to have been very unpleasant to him. He has not winced 
at "anything that has happened. A little booing would be a minor 
matter. Anyway, if there is any booing he t won't hear it. He will 
probably be asleep at the time." 

Before I left Washington I had told the Vice-President that I would 


talk to James A. Farley when I got to Chicago and I asked him if 
they had had any agreement. He replied: 

"There has never been any understanding between us that either 
would aid the other. He is, of course, opposed to a third term, as I 

I went to the Stevens Hotel and saw Farley. He was not very busy. 
Activity was across the street in the Hopkins third-term headquarters 
in the Blackstone. I asked Farley if his name was going before the 
convention. He said it was. 

He asked me if Garner's name would be presented. I told him it 
would be. 

I asked him if there would be a roll call. 

"There will be. There is going to be no acclamation without a 
roll call. There are at least 125 delegates here who want to be recorded 
against a third term and they will be recorded." 

I asked Farley who was going to nominate him. He said Senator 
Glass had expressed a desire to but that Glass was ill and he was not 
sure he would be able to do so. He asked me who would nominate 

I told him Wright Morrow of Houston would nominate Garner. 

On the second day of the convention. Chairman Barkley delivered 
the long-awaited statement from President Roosevelt, in which Bark- 
ley, speaking for the President, said he released all delegates and did 
not desire the nomination. 

Here occurred a remarkable demonstration presenting an entirely new 
twist in conventioa mechanics. As Barkley finished speaking, a parade 
started, principally not of delegates but of men and women brought 
in by Mayor Kelly of Chicago. Hundreds of banners bearing the 
inscriptions ROOSEVELT AND HUMANITY appeared. A huge picture of 
the President was handed to Senator Barkley, who lifted it high above 
the rostrum. 

Above the din one voice rose: It screamed: 'We want Roosevelt!' 
"America wants Roosevelt!" Then one by one it went through the 

states from Alabama to Wyoming, with a cry for each of " wants 

Roosevelt." This was a new one for the press gallery which had seen 
about everything a convention had to offer. It started a search which 
developed that Thomas D. McGarry, Chicago superintendent of 


sewers, had rigged up an apparatus in the basement and attached it 
to the loud-speaker system. The universal demand for Roosevelt, it 
developed, was one man reading from script into the amplifying sys- 
tem and reporters called it "the voice from the sewers." 

Feeling was high against Garner and Farley for allowing their 
names to be presented. With Wright Morrow, I went to the soft-drink 
stand just outside the convention door. Morrow was wearing a small 
Garner button on the lapel of his coat. As we started back through the 
door a policeman stopped Morrow, reached for the Garner button and 

"You had better take that off you are liable to get hurt in there 
wearing that button." 

Morrow replied: 

"I came here wearing that button. I have been wearing it all the 
time I have been here. Texas is instructed for Mr. Garner who is the 
Vice-President of the United States. I suppose you will protect me from 
getting hurt if anyone jumps on me, for I am going to continue wearing 
a Garner button." 

The policeman replied that he couldn't be responsible and thought 
Morrow ought to take it off. In fact he had it about halfway off while 
he talked. Morrow told him to keep it as a souvenir, placed another 
Garner button on his lapel and went inside. 

When we got into the hall again we saw that every aisle was packed 
by persons who were not delegates and who were let in without tickets. 
Morrow and I went to Chairman Barkley to protest. We told him that 
friends of Mr. Garner wished to stage a parade, that the Texas Cowboy 
Band with four white horses had been brought to Chicago with the 
Texas delegation for the purpose. 

The harassed Barkley heard us, said he was alarmed at the size 
of the crowd already in the convention, but called Edward Halsey, 
sergeant-at-arms of the convention. 

"We just want to do what the friends of any candidate do in a 
national convention," I told Halsey. 

Halsey pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. 

"I have just got this note telling me that not another person can 
be admitted to the hall," he said. "It is a dangerous situation. If you 
started a parade there might be a riot." 


I replied: 

"Ed, there have been a lot of fist fights in national conventions, but 
no riots. If there is one here tonight it will be because this hall has 
been packed by people who have no admission tickets. We have dele- 
gates at an entrance door with admission tickets and they intend to come 
in with a band which also has admission tickets." 

In a few minutes Halsey came to us and told us that the aisles would 
be cleared sufficiently to permit our parade, but asked us not to 
bring the horses in. 

"Well, we will concede that," Morrow said. "The horses do not have 
admission tickets." 

We held the parade and were surprised by the number of delegates 
from other states who fell into line. 

The booing which greeted both Glass and Morrow as they delivered 
their nominating speeches lived up to all advance promises. 

The end of the Garner candidacy came on Wednesday, July 17, 
when at a six-hour convention session the platform was adopted, candi- 
dates were placed in nomination and Roosevelt was nominated. 

On July 22, Mr. Garner, who had remained in Washington during 
the national convention, left for Uvalde. He made no statement as to 
when he expected to return but he had stripped his office and hotel 
apartment of all his pictures, mementos and personal belongings. He 
had broken a record for the longest continuous service in the chairs of 
the highest parliamentary bodies in the United States. His ten years 
of consecutive service as a presiding officer was divided two years as 
Speaker and eight years as Vice-President. He had gathered an un- 
equaled number of gavels. They were of every size and every com- 
position. One of them was so tiny it could be hidden in the palm of the 
hand, another weighed several hundred pounds and required two men 
to lift it. All were presented to the Texas State Museum at Austin. 

The Vice-President returned in September, presided over the Senate 
until Congress adjourned and remained a few days afterward. 

I asked him what his feelings were toward the men who proffered 
but never gave him support. He replied: 

"It is inherent political nature of officeholders from Senator to con- 
stable to want to be with the winner. Roosevelt was the head of the party 
and a popular President. When they found out he was going to be a 

candidate they acquiesced in his nomination or supported him. They 
could not fight the head of the party and keep their political lives. 
Nothing they could have done individually or as a group would have 
changed the result. I know that twenty Senators favored my nomina- 
tion. I never criticized one or blamed one of them for going to Roose- 

On his last day before going home in the autumn he had a long 
visit with Senator Glass. Pat Harrison and other colleagues came in. 
They were not sure whether he would return for the January session. 

Garner made no public statement during the campaign. In mid- 
October he thought Willkie had a chance to carry New York, but no 
chance in the decisive states of Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Cali- 

The retiring Vice-President returned in January to preside over the 
Senate until the end of his term. He received the regular invitation to 
the Cabinet meeting and attended. 

Lend-Lease was under discussion at the Cabinet meeting. Author- 
ship of the plan was mooted, but Arthur Purvis, head of the British- 
French Joint Purchasing Agency here, was understood to have had a 
part in it. 

Garner had an expert background in fiscal and foreign affairs. He had 
once been ranking member on both the House Foreign Affairs Com- 
mittee and the House Ways and Means Committee. He did not object 
to the proposal, had an open mind on it, but wanted information. 

Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau, who was supposed to know 
its details, was unable or at least did not explain them to the Vice- 
President's satisfaction. 

The proposal went to Congress after Garner left Washington. On 
February 9, it got one of the greatest boosts ever givea a piece of 
legislation. Wendell Willkie went to London, taking a letter from. 
President Roosevelt to Winston Churchill. 

Churchill, acknowledging the letter in a worldwide broadcast, said: 

"Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessings and 
under Providence all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall 
not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long 
drawn trials of vigilance and uncertainty will wear us down. Give us 
the tools and we shall finish the job" 


A few days before the end of his term, Garner was guest at a luncheon 
given by Jesse H. Jones, William S. Knudsen, Pat Harrison, Bennett 
Clark, Finis Garrett and other old friends. 

He swore in Henry Wallace as his successor and took part in the 
inauguration ceremonies. Numerous Senators paid tribute to him in 
Senate exercises. Senator Austin of Vermont, later United States repre- 
sentative on the United Nations, said : 

"At the end of the second term of the Vice-President, I desire to 
express the appreciation of the minority [Republicans] of certain out- 
standing characteristics of this man, who seemed to be a combination of 
Roger Williams and Sam Houston. His characteristics were positive- 
ness, fairness, decisiveness, candor, loyalty. All these, which form the 
foundations of everlasting friendship on the part of members of this 
body on both sides of the aisle, were possessed by this unique character 
to a degree which I think I have never observed in any other man." 

The former Vice-President had enjoyed his service in Washington. 
He was breaking many years of affectionate association. 

"I have been here thirty-eight years," he told a group of friends who 
called to bid him farewell. That is just one-fourth of the 152 years 
of the life of this Republic up to now. I am going home to live to be 
ninety-three years old." 

I asked him if he thought Roosevelt's third nomination could have 
been stopped by any sort of strategy. He said nothing could have 
stopped it. 

"But if I faced the same situation again I would try it. I would try 
it against any President seeking a third term. I would know that I had 
little or no chance for success, but I would take the long chance." 

Then he said: 

"Roosevelt will be a candidate for a fourth term if he lives. The next 
time it will have less open opposition than it had this time. He will never 
leave the White House except in death or defeat." 

After Roosevelt's death he told me at Uvalde why he felt this way : 

"Roosevelt would have run as long as he lived and was in office, tie 
was ambitious. He wanted history to record him as the man who served 
longest in the Presidency. He was afraid someone would undo his 
work. But I think he would have had a better record and a more desira- 
ble place in history if he had not run for a third term." 


When I asked him if he regretted throwing the 1932 nomination 
to Roosevelt, he replied: 

"As a party man, if the same situation were presented to me again 
as it was in 1932, I would do the same thing. Roosevelt made a good 
President for four years and could have been a great one in the second 
four. I wish I had not felt obliged by party loyalty to go on the ticket 
with him, but I did. He needed a Joe Cannon as Speaker. That would 
have been, a check on him. 

"Theodore Roosevelt had Cannon to check him in all but the first 
two years of his administration. I would have liked to play that part 
in Franklin Roosevelt's administration. I think I could have talked 
him out of a lot of things. That could have been my contribution. I 
would have had no desire to dictate his decisions. I would not have 
tried to tell him what he could do. But there would have been times 
when I would have told him what he could not do." 

I asked Garner for his estimate of Roosevelt as a politician. 

"His political success indicates that he had the best kind of political 
mind. But there are factors which make it difficult to evaluate his politi- 
cal skill. He was on the crest of the wave and only two or three times 
in our history has the other political party been so weak as during his 
terms. How he would have fared under normal political alignments 
can only be conjectured." 

In the minds of most people Garner and former President Hoover 
were pictured as irreconcilable antagonists. Surely no two men slammed 
each other harder. But of Garner, Hoover said: 

"John Garner knew how to play politics, and he was a master of 
that game. But he is a true patriot, a sound thinker and absolutely 
trustworthy in his engagements." In 1947, Garner said to me at Uvalde: 

"I co-operated with President Hoover on some things. On some I 
fought him with everything I had, under Marquis of Queensberry, 
London Prize Ring and catch-as-catch-can rules. But I always fought 
according to rules. My judgment may have been frail as to the proper 
solution of the vexing problems, but my course from 1931 to 1933, while 
I was Speaker, as in all my public career, put public welfare above 
partisan advantage. I thought my party had a better program for 
national recovery than Mr. Hoover and his party. 

"I never reflected on the personal character or integrity of Herbert 

[ 2 79 ] 

Hoover. I never doubted his probity or his patriotism. In many ways he 
was superbly equipped for the Presidency. If he had become President 
in 1921 or 1937, he might have ranked with the greatest Presidents. 
Those periods would have been more suitable to his talents. I think 
Herbert Hoover today is the wisest statesman on world affairs in 
America. He may be on domestic affairs, too." 



Reflections of a Statesman-Citizen 

JOHN NANCE GARNER at seventy-nine is having just the sort 
of life he planned for himself. 
As he sat on the sun-spangled glassed-in porch of his home in 
Uvalde he told me: 

"I have had a lot of fun since I came back here. I get just the 
exercise I want, just the reading I want, just the amount of work I 
want, just the association I want. But for the fact that Mrs. Garner 
has been ill much of the time I think I could say that the seven years 
since I came back here have been the seven happiest of my life. Had 
Mrs. Garner kept her health we would have traveled some." 

It took Mr. Garner a long time to get back to the sand-colored brick 
house he built in 1918 in anticipation of retirement from -office, but 
getting used to private life required very little readjustment for him. 
He never wore Washington very thick. He regarded himself as a work- 
man in the business of representative government and the national 
capital was the place where he met similar workmen for discussion of 
national problems and enactment of national legislation. 

"Some people would stay in Washington if they had to live in trees," 
he said. "I always took the last train that would get me there for what- 
ever business there was and I took the first train out when it was 

But because he has no nostalgia for Washington does not mean that 
he did not enjoy his long service there. For nearly forty years he had 
stanch friendships with almost every outstanding personality in the 
Democratic and Republican parties and with hundreds of other men 
eminent in all pursuits. 

His house is filled with mementos. The first Vice-President's flag ever 

used was designed for him and stands in the wide entrance hall of his 
home. The designer of the flag was Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

His library is filled with books autographed by the authors, and 
writers continue to send him more new books than he can read, but 
he reads a great deal. Much of his reading is of the classics. Mrs. 
Garner can no longer read and he reads to her daily. When I was at their 
home in December 1947, he was reading Dickens' Tale of Two Cities 
to her. Christmas presents came to them from all over the country. 

"From the time I came to Uvalde more than fifty years ago my days 
have been cast in pleasant places here, at Austin and in Washington," 
he said. "None of my days are lamented." 

But he says being a citizen requires his full time. 

"I threw all my energy into public life for forty years, now I need 
all my energy for my duties as a citizen," he said. "My activities leave 
me little time to think of the past. I can work nine hours a day and 
usually do and I have a grand time." 

The Garner town place is set among giant oak trees. The eight acres 
of lawn are carpeted with rich San Augustine grass, known as "Garner 
grass." It grows under trees. He tried his hand at making it grow under 
the -shade of White House trees but failed and the bare spots are still 

Around the house are 180 towering pecan trees. Fenced off to the 
rear are chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. 

Sometimes he receives visitors on the back porch and breakfast room 
of his home. It has an oilcloth-covered table, an icebox and pitchers of 
what he calls "branch water." The walls are covered with red, green 
and yellow Aztec figures. 

He lives at 333 Park Street and calls your attention to the fact that 
it is Park Street not Park Avenue and the intersecting street is named 
Mesquite. But that is jocular. He thinks there are good people on Park 
Avenue, too. 

"But right here is the United States of America," he says. "My neigh- 
bors are people of sincerity and kindliness. No one lives in great luxury, 
but they apply the essentials of sound living. All of them seem to accu- 
mulate a few more things each year, to live a little better and have more 
comforts. It isn't Utopia, of course, and they have their struggles, but 
they get along. They are mighty good neighbors." 


To these neighbors he is Mr. Garner, and to the older people he is 
"the Judge." He was the Judge to them when he was Representative, 
Speaker, Minority Leader and Vice-President. That is what he has been 
ever since he was county judge of Uvalde county, a half-century ago. 

Uvalde has a heavy Mexican population. Recently he suggested the 
establishment of a boy's center and agreed to match a sum raised by 
subscription in the city. With it the center was purchased and is in 

Mr. Garner owns banks, business houses, residences, farms and 
ranches. His ranches total 46,000 acres. 

"I hope they don't bring in oil any time soon," he said. "That would 
bring on a lot of things to pester me." 

The former Vice-President occasionally goes on a fishing trip with 
Ross Brumfield, local garage owner. But for the most part he is engaged 
now in his "housing projects." 

He has built ninety-one residences and business houses lately to add 
to others he has been building for years. The percentage of Garner- 
owned or Garner-built houses is so large that if Uvalde were New 
York City it would be about half the houses on Manhattan Isle. It is 
a great deal for Uvalde, which like every city, town and village in the 
nation has a housing problem. 

"I am trying to serve my nation by alleviating the housing situa- 
tion and paying taxes," he said. 

Sometimes a Uvalde citizen will point to one of the Garner houses 
and slyly say: "That is another one of the houses that Jack built." 

But no one in Uvalde is on informal enough terms to call him 
"Jack." Those variations of "Jack," such as "Cactus Jack," "Chaparral 
Jack" and the like were Eastern concoctions and even there they 
were used to his back. Very few men had such easy informality with 
him. Certainly very few people in Uvalde speak of him other than 
Judge Garner or Mr. Garner. Even Mrs. Garner never called him" any 
other name but Mr. Garner. 

Mr. Garner got into the housing business without having given it 
much advance thought. Eight or nine years ago F.H.A. built a 
demonstration house in Uvalde but the follow-up was rather slow. 
Someone suggested to the Vice-President that he ought to build some 


houses. He had much vacant property and decided to try his hand 
at it. 

Then a story got out how he was doing a job at a great deal less 
than the F.H.A. houses could be built for. The Vice-President said he 
did not put on as many "doodads" as F.H.A. suggested. By "doodads" 
he meant things his prospective renters or purchasers did not regard 
as essential. He never liked "doodads" on appropriation bills or any- 
where else. But the Vice-President said he merely built the houses 
because people wanted them, their construction furnished employment 
for idle people and idle money and he liked to be doing something. 

"No architectural firm draws the plans. They are designed in a 
spirit of neighborliness. The womenfolks who are going to live in them 
furnish the ideas. The principal aim in their construction is that you 
have got to please the womenfolks." 

His housing venture includes business buildings as well. 

These are usually leased for ten years. He pointed to one in a 
brisk walk we took around the town. 

"That one I let go for too little rent," he said. "But the fellow who 
has it is a good man and will be successful. Ill up him ten years 
from now." 

As Mr. Garner is now seventy-nine, he would be eighty-nine at the 
upping time. He says he does not want to live to be an old man, but 
would like to live to be ninety-three. 

"I was in public office forty-six years," he said. "If I live to be ninety- 
three I will have spent more than half of my years in private life. I 
would like to achieve that." 

On appearances the former Vice-President won't be old at ninety- 
three unless he ages fast from now on. He could pass for twenty years 
less than the calendar shows. He certainly has no wrinkles of worry 
or any other kind of wrinkles. He still never seems to be physically 
tired. His high-pitched voice still has the same vigor. He comes to 
a point with terseness and wastes few words. 

Some people in Uvalde say: 

"The Judge has made two or three fortunes since he got out of 
public life." 

They apparently don't mean he has made and lost them, but has 
accumulated two or three times what would be considered a good 
lifetime financial setup. 


Garner got most of the things in life by his own shrewdness and 
prudence. His parents supplied him with a log cabin to be born 
in, which was a good political asset. The rest he principally did for 
himself. Garner has not only made money for himself. He has helped 
others to make it. 

Because of the train schedule, Garner going home from Congressional 
sessions would leave the train at San Antonio and drive to Uvalde. 
His favorite driver was an Englishman. Garner's first loan to him was 
$530 to buy an automobile o his own, and he continued his backing 
in other things. Last autumn the man refused more than a million 
dollars for the business he started on $530 borrowed from Garner. 

He has taken most pleasure out of helping people get or save their 

"The happiest thing about it is that I have never been in court 
on a foreclosure or taken advantage of anyone's distress to make a 
profit for myself," he said. 

"I somehow think the man who contrives to get hold o a home 
of his own or a little piece of land somewhere is a sounder individual 
than the man who does not. After the Democrats came into power in 
1933 I marveled at the scores of earnest men who came to Washington 
to manage the problems of the nation and many of them had never 
managed to own a home. They did not know what was wrong, but 
they wanted to right it. There were some more cocksure who thought 
they had their fingers on the solution of the problems. They left the 
government service without solving the problems and left nothing 
but their fingerprints." 

When bank trouble began in the early 1930*5 there were two banks 
in Uvalde. Garner from the first had wanted the accounts of little 
people. The rival bank went after the choice accounts. But the day 
arrived when there were few choice accounts. The other bank went 
to Garner and suggested he take the bank over. He did. 

With all his other activities, the former Vice-President in retirement 
sees as high as thirty visitors a day at his home. The average is 
twenty. Some of them drive a long way to see him. They don't 
stay any longer than he wants them to stay. He is hospitable, but he 
can send you on your way with great felicity. 

To Texas outside his home town he is the "Sage of Uvalde" or 
the "Squire of Uvalde." There is a state park named for him near by. 

Anyone running for office likes to get a pointer from him. In the 
Presidential election year, 1948, he has many national visitors, too. 

He rises early, spends a couple of hours looking after his mail 
and business matters. Formerly he walked downtown for a shave, but 
his barbers, Fyan Nelson and Bill Gordon, have lost a customer. 

"I never shaved myself in my life until last fall," Garner said. "I 
always thought when I got a little time I would try it. I got an electric 
razor and now shave myself." 

The former Vice-President thinks if he had his private life and his 
public career before him again he would not do anything differently 
than he did. 

"I never did anything by caprice," he said. "My acts usually were 
done deliberately." 

Once Mr. Garner gave some thought to writing his memoirs or 
turning them over to someone. 

"I have a record of about all the transactions of my life," he said. 
"Sometime I might turn them over to someone and tell him to go to it." 

However, he finally burned the priceless records. 

"I had many offers," he said. "Some wanted to do this and some 
that with the material. I didn't want to go through the files myself. 
They were a mass of yellow and yellowing paper. I needed all my 
own energies for present activities. So, I burned them. Under the 
circumstances that was a good disposition of them." 

Although Garner for thirty years did not canvass his district and 
franked no speeches home, he had a reputation for spotting trends and 
separating them from transient manifestations. 

He once said to me: 

"In my personal experience, I tried to represent my constituency, 
but that representation had to fit in with what I considered the 
national good. If I did not represent the views of my Congressional 
district they had a chance to do something about it every two years. 

"A Congressional district is sometimes a hard taskmaster. None of 
them ever reach a point where they say: 'Just let our interests rock 
along and go be a national statesman.' " 

Once when a newspaper article said that Garner had a better prac- 
tical understanding of legislative government than any other living 
man, he commented: 


"Actually, I am a plain businessman who has happened to have 
long legislative experience as the representative of a conservative com- 
munity. This experience has endowed me with a fair realization, I 
hope, of the problems of government. 

"I guess we'd hate to live in a world where no one loves us, and a 
public man likes to have approval of the people. In the House of 
Representatives the elections are so frequent that its membership 
is responsive to the informed will of the people. Mature and informed 
public opinion is one thing. Emotional fervor of uninformed people 
is quite another. This emotional feeling sometimes manifests itself in 
a flood of telegrams on a pending bill. 

"There is just one reliable test that the public man should respond 
to and that is a legal, secret and safeguarded ballot. I never paid 
much attention to straw votes and haphazard tests of public opinion. 
The unofficial polls go up and down, by the week or the month. The 
people are not so mercurial. If they changed that fast then our 
terms for elected officials are too long." 

Garner is proud of the fact that everyone who ever ran for Congress 
against him wound up supporting him. He said: 

"They were political opponents, not enemies." 

Garner in his long legislative career sounded no bugle calls and 
never was in any torment of intensity over any measure. He just sat 
down and worked things out with other men. I asked him the 
qualities necessary for leadership. He said: 

"The art of getting along with men is one of the greatest gifts of 
statesmanship, one of the most important assets of the public man. It 
consists of holding men to you by winning their respect and affection. 
Then, if in addition a man has ability he becomes a very strong leader. 

"Nature has something to do with it, of course. Just as an animal 
may have some outstanding characteristics that others of the same breed 
may not have; or as a particular race horse will have both speed and 
staying qualities, so some men will have the natural qualities that fit 
them for leadership. These can be brought out, developed and acceler- 
ated by use and experience. Our elective system, with its local and state 
offices, its state and national legislative bodies, provides an excellent 
training ground as well as machinery for selecting the capable from the 


other kind as they prove themselves. But, o course, the voters have 
to do their part." 

Dogmatic attitudes exasperated him. He said: 

"I have every respect for an opinion contrary to my own provided it is 
sincere. No man or party has a monopoly on good intentions or intel- 

Discussing a cliche that everyone advanced for anything they desired 
an appropriation for, the former Vice-President said : 

"There is, of course, such a thing as too little and too late. There is 
also such a thing as too much and too quick. It doesn't hurt to allow 
some situations to jell awhile." 

He discerns the tricks of the propaganda boys. He said: 

"The clamor of a vociferous minority many times drowns out the 
voice of the submerged majority." 

Garner spots all the build-ups used now as they were in his 
earliest service to wheedle or snare an appropriation out of Con- 
gress. There is little difference in technique. While there are no new 
twists, the amounts are more inflated. 

"Nearly always," he says, "there is an emergency threatening dire 
results unless immediately relieved by adequate use of some of the 
money belonging to the American taxpayer." 

Garner can't remember what it was, but he thinks there was a serious 
disaster threatening, unless relieved by an appropriation, when he first 
arrived in Washington. 

Not only does the former Vice-President not remember what the 
first emergency was but he can't recall the last one or most of those 

"In my early days in Congress," he said, "a man would express his 
undying devotion to the flag and wind up asking for a little appropria- 
tion to dig out a bayou in his district. But in recent years it isn't Con- 
gress that thinks up the plans for throwing money around. 

"The cost of government the year I went to Washington was 
$486,439,407. Any appropriation item that small now is merely interim." 

Garner likes some things about career men in government. The fault 
he finds with them is that: 

"They've spent their entire lives spending appropriated money." 

Naturally, a man who had a gift for government and knew the 

practical art of government better than any living American will talk 
about government, and Garner does. 

"But I wish there was less government to talk about," he said. "The 
best thing that would happen to the American people would be cur- 
tailed government. The most affectionate, heartfelt wish I could have 
for the American people is less government. 

"We have come a long way from the thirteen former colonies on the 
Atlantic seaboard and the original conception that almost the sole 
function of the national government was to repel invasion and prevent 
the states from raising trade barriers against one another. But in the 
year 1948 it is still true that the country is governed best that is governed 
least. The people know what to do for themselves better than the 
government knows what to do for them. 

"I never saw a federal official until I was fourteen years old. It was a 
healthier, more independent country then. A boy of fourteen now 
probably has seen more federal than local officials. 

"Washington always has to have its kitty. Somewhere between the 
taxpayer and the ultimate use to which his money is to be put Washing- 
ton extracts roughly 15 per cent. That goes for what is call 'adminis- 
tration.' The people get something back in services. The party in power 
(whatever party it is) gets more jobs and a machine. 

"As a citizen given the decision as to whether I would rather pay 
high taxes and see the government debt reduced or whether I would 
rather have lower taxes and a huge public debt, I would prefer to con- 
tinue paying high taxes. The only trouble is that with a great tax 
yield the government looks around for new ways to spend money 
instead of reducing the debt. 

"All bonds are payable in dollars. If we pay on the debt now we are 
paying with dollars worth a half or a third less than they were worth 
when the debt was contracted or which they will be worth again some- 

"If we pay off five billion a year we would have fifty billion paid 
off in ten years. The people, once the custom of paying was estab- 
lished, would insist on the yearly payment. Then if there was a de- 
pression or some setback we would be better able to withstand it." 

Garner takes a great interest in local government in his home 
city and country. He thinks everyone should. 


"If they did," he said, "they would get a better concept of the 
American principle of government. You don't get the right perspec- 
tive of national government unless you understand local and state 
government. It is all interwoven. Some people who pass for pundits 
in government think the national government is all important. They 
are out of focus. If all the people had a comprehensive understanding 
of government they would take some of it out of Washington and 
bring it home where they could watch it. They would be rewarded 
with smaller tax bills and they wouldn't have to pay for two million 
civilian federal employees." 

Partly from habit and partly from actual enjoyment Garner is still 
a constant reader of the Congressional Record and believes that omnium 
gatherum ought to have more subscribers. 

He remarked that there is one thing of which there will always be a 
shortage and that is capable public servants. He hopes capable men 
will always give some time to government. Discussing Roosevelt 
appointments, he said: 

"Roosevelt appointed some very able men. He appointed some second- 
rate men and some of his appointees were so bad as to be perfectly 
astounding. His worst appointments were judicial, the one place 
where he should have appointed the ablest man, regardless of politics. 
Some of his appointments to the highest courts should not have 
happened to a justice-of-the-peace court." 

When Congress submitted the proposed constitutional amendment 
limiting the President to two terms, I asked him his view on it. 

"The states ought to adopt the two-term amendment, which Con- 
gress has submitted," he said. "It is good Democratic doctrine. Andrew 
Jackson in his second annual message to Congress recommended a 
constitutional amendment limiting the term of Presidents. 

"A President in his third and successive terms may not be a dic- 
tator, but he is the first cousin or half-brother of one, and he will 
perform like one. That is plain, unadulterated human nature. 

"I'll go further. I wish it could be worked out so that we could 
have only four or eight years of Republican administration and four 
or eight years of Democratic administration at a time. 

"More equal division between the parties would make for better 
government in the South and would aid its industrial growth. The 

South has become more and more a one-party section. The Demo- 
cratic party has increased its strength in Vermont and Maine, but 
the Republican party has not in Mississippi and South Carolina. The 
Congressional district in which I live once polled a heavy Republican 
vote. Now, it is negligible." 

Garner still adheres to his long-held belief that the requirement of 
a two-thirds vote to override an Executive veto gives the President 
too much power. 

"I have for many years believed that when the President vetoes 
a measure it should be returned to Congress with the requirement 
that not a mere majority of these present and voting, but a majority 
of the total 96 Senators and 435 Representatives should be sufficient 
to override. If after considering the objections of the President 49 
Senators and 218 Representatives believe the measure should become 
law notwithstanding the objections of the Executive, that measure 
should become law. 

"Project the present required two-thirds into terms of popular 
votes. Out of forty-five million voters that would mean thirty million 
on one side and fifteen on the other. There has never been any such 
popular majority in our history." 

Garner has lost none of his affection for Congress. Sometimes he 
seems a little more of a House man than a Senate man. 

"The House of Representatives is not the lower' House," he said. 
"It is the most numerous, but not the lower. 5 In the most important 
legislative functions of taxes, appropriations and the control of the 
purse it is the originating and, therefore, the highest House." 

"The Executive has too much power now [this conversation was in 
1947]. Under our form of government Congress is the people's repre- 
sentatives. The people are entitled to carefully worked-out legislation, 
debated, amended and perfected by the people's representatives. We 
have had too much legislation by Executive order." 

He continued: 

"I have been called a Congress man and I am. Congress has never 
been the usurper in this country. The few times it has attempted it, 
it has failed. It has erred more often the other way. It has granted 
power to the Executive or has allowed him to usurp power to the 
point where he could carry on personal government instead of gov- 

ernment by accepted laws. At times Congress has sat by and watched 
the courts legislate. 

"Congress is sound. It has always been sound. Its weakness is on 
appropriations. Leadership on government economy has to come from 
the White House. If a President wants economy and will use his 
Budget Bureau to that end he will get it. You have to have a Coolidge. 

"I have never advocated a weak Executive. The Presidency of the 
United States is the greatest office in the world. My belief has been 
in Executive leadership, not Executive rulership. In party matters 
when we have had a Democratic President I have wanted all parts of 
the country and all factions of the party to have a voice in party, 
policy. You have to have a leader. Time comes when the leader must 
exercise his leadership, but it is always a good plan to see what is in 
the minds of the rank and file. Sometimes the led have a better idea 
than the leader. 

"The President, through his appointive power and the Senate, 
through its prerogatives of 'advice and consent,' have no more sacred 
duty than in the selection of that branch of government which is 
appointive the judiciary. The President, in making appointments 
to the Supreme Court, should see that a political balance is kept. A 
five-to-four division is most desirable. There should never be a wider 
division than six to three. 

"The men who founded this government believed in a republican 
form of government. In a democracy one man can conceivably control 
the government. It has always been a possibility and it is especially so 
today when an individual occupying that office has at his command 
so many vehicles for putting himself before the country. 

"We do not have three hostile divisions of government, one for 
law making, one for law executing and one for law interpreting. We 
have a trinity of co-ordinated branches. The boundaries between them 
are marked distinctly enough for anyone who desires to see them." 

At the time of his retirement In 1941, Mr. Garner gave me an 
intimate view of how he felt about his public service. 

"I hope I may have been helpful in accomplishing some permanent 
good to my country," he said, "I have tried to do so. 

"Very few men have had so extended an opportunity. I am grateful 
for having had the privilege of associating with and working with 


hundreds o men, coming from all sections o the nation and repre- 
senting every viewpoint, I believe I served with a total o between 
3,000 and 4,000 Senators and Representatives. Most of them were men 
of courage, patriotism and good will, of stability and dependability, 
determined to do what was best for their country, according to their 

"To my knowledge, I have never deceived a man or a woman in 
my life. I have never been prodigal with promises, 'but I never made 
a promise I did not have every reason to believe I could keep. I never 
gave utterance to anything I did not believe to be the truth. I have 
wanted people to know where I stood and sometimes I may have 
carried this to the point of bluntness and unkindness. 

"I never sought fame or glory. Both are transitory. I wanted only 
to be a competent workman in the business of government. I have 
had great love for and debt to my party and wanted it to be an instru- 
ment of good, whether it was in the majority or the minority. Some- 
times it has been more serviceable as an effective minority. My 
considered opinion is that I had no more useful years than those in 
the ranks of or as the leader of the opposition to the majority. 

"I deplore demagoguery and the appeal to class animosity. It has 
never seemed to me that permanent gain was achieved by too much 
haste in settling solemn problems. I have seen no one possessed of 
enough knowledge to cause me to think he was a bringer of the mil- 
lennium. But I have seen this country steadily advance to startling 

But home in Texas, Garner finds things just as absorbing as he ever 
found them in Washington, He gets great joy out of simple things. 

The Garner lawn is a bird sanctuary. Mr. Garner watches the 
variety of birds which come to the birdbaths he has erected. The 
ex- Vice-President also is a great animal lover, although he has no 
especial favorite in the animal world. Once he found three motherless 
kittens and cared for them until they were old enough to look after 
their own affairs. He was proud of the achievement. 

His son, Tully, lives in a house adjoining Mr. Garner's. 

His granddaughter, Genevieve, now Mrs. John Currie, visits him 
often and her two sons, John Garner Currie and Tully Robert Currie, 
keep him busy on their visits. 


Some years ago Mr. Garner was quoted as having said: 

"Many persons think, no doubt, that I consider some act of my 
political career as the outstanding achievement o my life. Far from 
it. For many years I thought if a person had wronged me, I never 
cared for that person any more or rested easily until I got even with 
him. I realized my weakness and fought against it through the years 
before I overcame it. I have nothing but the kindliest feeling for every- 
one. That to me is my life's greatest achievement." 

A few weeks ago I asked him if he still felt the same way. He re- 

"Well, it has been a long time since I did anything in spleen. I 
have liked most of the people I have met and tnost of the people with 
whom I have worked. I have nothing but the kindliest feelings for 
everyone. But," he added, "of course, I like some people better than 

[ 2 94 ] 

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